Valencia(Spain) Dec 16 (IANS) Karim Benzema salvaged a 1-1 tie from what appeared — up until the last second — to be a bitter road defeat for Real Madrid at the hands of Valencia in the 17th week of the La Liga season at Mestalla Stadium in Valencia before 44,230 fans.
The capital squad dominated Sunday evening’s match in the first period, although they were unable to get on the board, but the home team were clearly on top during the second half, reports Efe news.
After beating Ajax in Amsterdam and moving into the quarterfinals in the Champions League as first in their group, Valencia had a chance to close out a fantastic week with a win over Zinedine Zidane’s boys until practically the last play of the match, when France’s Benzema finally managed to find the twine for the one-all draw.
Although Real Madrid came out at the start in decisive fashion and imposed a high tempo on the match, Valencia responded calmly and methodically tried to short-circuit the capital squad’s strategy.
Real Madrid, nevertheless, managed to find its rhythm and take over play during the first half, largely blocking Valencia into its own side of the pitch and moving the ball quickly looking for breaks in the defence.
The first half ended scoreless, but not without Valencia coming on late with a vengeance, responding with great speed and agility to manufacture a couple of good chances, both of which ended without result, however.
The second half opened with a great chance in which Ferran Torres found himself right in front of the Madrid net although Courtois prevented the score.
But it was Valencia who really pressed the pedal to the metal, discombobulating Madrid, who just didn’t show the verve they had exhibited during the first period.
Finally, with the match’s intensity having declined significantly by the 78th minute, a great combination by Rodrigo and Wass ended up with a pass to Carlos Soler, who managed to drive it home for the 1-0.
That tally reactivated the match and Madrid — on the ropes and feeling it — sought to recover the intensity of the first period, albeit against a rival that now hung back, hoping to cruise to a win, although not forgetting the possibility of a capital counterattack.
In the final stretch, Valencia tried to deactivate Madrid’s rhythm, also trying to go for the killer-score, which Courtois prevented in extra time, giving his team a little more breathing room and ultimately — at the very last moment — Valencia goaltender Domenech came out of the net to try and kill a corner kick and Benzema was able to take advantage of the defensive error for the draw.
Valencia will now travel to Real Valladolid next Saturday, while Madrid will play its last match of the year next Sunday at home against Athletic Bilbao, although on Wednesday they will have to go up against Barcelona at Camp Nou for their rescheduled Clasico even-steven on the La Liga table.