Another single-goal loss to Real Madrid roots Pucela in the basement
Saturday February 20th, 2021
Estadio José Zorrilla, Valladolid, Spain
REAL VALLADOLID 0
REAL MADRID 1
Missed chances came back to haunt Real Valladolid as, for the third consecutive match against Real Madrid, a single goal was enough to consign them to defeat against Zinedine Zidane’s side. Thibaut Courtois was tested on several occasions as Pucela sought to find a way through but, ultimately, he stood firm and sustained pressure from his teammates paid off when Casemiro headed past Jordi Masip in the 65th minute.
Having not beaten Real Madrid since November 2008, when they were on the right end of a 1-0 scoreline, the odds were firmly stacked against Sergio’s threadbare side who had slipped into 19th place by the time the teams took the field on Saturday evening. Newly signed left-back Lucas Olaza was suspended for the match, meaning a return to the fold for Nacho Martínez who had not featured since the loss to Huesca at home on Matchday 21. Also returning to the back four following his own suspension was Joaquín, who replaced debutant Miguel Rubio. Switching to a 4-2-3-1 formation, Jota dropped to the bench and was replaced with Rubén Alcaraz who returned from a one-match ban to partner Roque Mesa in the double holding role. Ahead of them, Fabián Orellana was preferred on the left flank to Óscar Plano whose return from a knee injury earned him a place on the bench, while Kike Pérez assumed the central midfield duty and was aided on the right by Saidy Janko. This was a surprising inclusion, given that Janko is a right-back by trade and there was sufficient cover on the bench at left midfield for Orellana to play on his natural side. Sergi Guardiola was preferred as the lone striker, despite registering only one goal this season; a penalty which came all the way back in September in the 1-1 home draw with Celta on Matchday 3.
The visitors were not without their injury worries either. Missing captain Sergio Ramos, along with fellow defenders Marcelo, Éder Militao, Álvaro Odriozola and Dani Carvajal, as well as midfielder Fede Valverde and forwards Eden Hazard and Rodrygo, Zidane named just one first-team outfield player – Isco – on the bench, with the other substitutes coming from the Real Madrid Castilla side. Despite amassing more than an estimated £264 million worth of talent unavailable for this match, Zidane needed to make just two changes to the side who had beaten Valencia at the Estadio Alfredo di Stéfano the previous week, with Lucas Vázquez replacing Carvajal at right-back and Benzema’s place being filled by Mariano Díaz. Los Blancos were on a three-match winning streak which continues to put pressure on their city neighbours, Atlético, at the top of the LaLiga Santander table.
Despite the gulf in resources and league positions, Real Valladolid started the match brightly and forced Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois into a double save, firstly to deny Orellana and then blocking Janko’s effort over the bar.
Mariano was perhaps the unluckiest of all the players on the pitch as he found the back of the net on two separate occasions within eight minutes of each other, only for his celebrations to be curtailed by decisions of offside both times. Between these, Real Valladolid fashioned another opportunity of their own when some patient build-up play so them switch possession from the right to left flanks before Orellana delivered a cross into the box. It was met by Kike Pérez, but his was a soft header which looped into the air and was claimed comfortably by Courtois.
Six minutes before the break, Los Blancos spurned their best chance of the half. Having been awarded a free-kick due to Jordi Masip carelessly carrying the ball over the boundary of his penalty area, Kroos delivered a pinpoint ball into the box which was met by the marauding figure of Casemiro who climbed over Bruno to make the connection, but he headed over the bar in a warning shot which would eventually cost Pucela dearly.
Upon the restart, the Blanquivioletas repeated their fast start to the first half and came out of the blocks in spritely fashion. Mesa called Courtois into action with a shot on goal which was held in a routine fashion by the Belgian whose transfer to Real Madrid in August 2018 cost them £35 million which is roughly £10 million more than the fee paid by Ronaldo Nazário to become president of Real Valladolid the following month.
Five minutes later Pucela had their best chance of the encounter, as visiting defender Ferland Mendy sliced an ill-advised clearance across the face of his own goal which was seized upon by Orellana. He crashed a volley at goal from the penalty spot but it was Courtois to the rescue yet again to block the effort with his left foot.
The first Real Valladolid substitution came just after the hour mark as Janko made way for Jota to take up position on the right wing.
This inability to convert their chances came at a cost for Sergio’s men as Real Madrid took the lead ten minutes after Courtois had bailed out his own side again. A soft free-kick was awarded when Lucas looked in danger of losing possession on the edge of the Pucela area. The right-back pivoted away from Orellana’s challenge and, when he saw Nacho coming in to contest the loose ball, he turned into the home defender and allowed himself to be put to the ground. It was the kind of act, in every sense, and subsequent judgement given in favour of the two biggest teams whenever they have been denied by smaller opponents for the majority of the match and, just as predictable, it gave them the breakthrough. Again, Kroos delivered the inch-perfect ball into the box and Casemiro outjumped Luis Pérez to beat Masip with a downward header.
On 73 minutes, Sergio shuffled his pack with a double change in attack. Kenan Kodro replaced Roque Mesa and Sergi Guardiola came off for Shon Weissman as the formation changed to 4-4-2. The Israeli, who has struggled to adapt to life in LaLiga, made his first contribution by chasing down a back-pass from Casemiro to Courtois. The Belgian played it onto Madrid’s own Nacho but his touch let him down and Weissman was first to react. Within a split-second, he hit the deck and it looked like the defender had maringally clipped him but, while the referee waved away the claims, replays showed that there had been little if any contact.
With time running out, the final two changes for Real Valladolid saw Óscar Plano coming on for Kike Pérez and Alcaraz making way for Fede San Emeterio.
There was to be no late equaliser though and, as such, Pucela dropped to their third loss in four league matches and closed out the week in nineteenth place. Their bid to remain in Primera for another year received a further dent with Huesca earning an unlikely win over Granada the next day to close the gap to just two points at the foot of the standings.
Real Valladolid travel to Galicia to take on Celta Vigo on Sunday, as every point missed sees the ominous cloud of relegation grow ever greater.
REAL VALLADOLID (4-2-3-1): Jordi Masip (Capt.); Nacho, Bruno, Joaquín, Luis Pérez, Rubén Alcaraz (Fede San Emeterio 84’), Roque Mesa (Shon Weissman 73’), Fabián Orellana, Kike Pérez (Óscar Plano 84’), Saidy Janko (Jota 61’), Sergi Guardiola (Kenan Kodro 73’).
Subs unused: Roberto; Miguel Rubio, Toni Villa, Míchel, Waldo.
REAL MADRID (4-3-3): Thibaut Courtois; Ferland Mendy, Nacho, Rafael Varane (Capt.), Lucas Vázquez, Toni Kroos, Casemiro, Luka Modrić, Vinícius Jr. (Sergio Arribas 66’), Mariano Díaz (Hugo Duro 66’), Marco Asensio (Isco 66’).
Subs unused: Andriy Lunin, Diego Altube; Victor Chust, Miguel Gutiérrez, Antonio Blanco.