Valladolid 0-2 Real Madrid: Courtois and Camavinga rescue late win

Real Madrid returned to winning ways away from home last night as the 2-0 win against Real Valladolid, followed by Barcelona’s draw against Espanyol, sent them level on points with the Catalan giants at the top of the La Liga table although Xavi’s side remain ahead on goal difference.

The Spanish champions will have felt pretty satisfied with the performance, especially having kept a clean sheet in a stop-start game against difficult opposition even if it got a bit frustrating at times for the fans.

Real Madrid started the game on a positive note in their black and green away strips, dominating the initial 15 minutes and having a 9th minute shout for handball being waved off by the referee. Los Blancos were knocking at Valladolid’s doors again in the 17th minute when Karim Benzema skied one from point blank range. The chance came from Vinicius Junior’s brilliance down the left.

The Brazilian was involved in a heated individual battle with 18 year-old Ivan Fresneda, a former Real Madrid youth star, down the flank and was treated with hostility by the fans and players alike, as is the case at any away stadium in Spain for him these days.

First Half: Valladolid assert dominance in their own backyard

The visitors looked to bring the game under their supervision, with Toni Kroos and Dani Ceballos key to holding the structure. Yet, Pacheta’s men were incredibly smart in pinning the Real Madrid defence back and stretching their shape out wide. The game evolved into a much more robust and intense physical battle, with rough tackles on both ends.

The chaos favoured Real Valladolid’s style as they then grew in confidence, occasionally pressing Carlo Ancelotti’s side in their own half in an attempt to bring a sense of urgency to the flow of proceedings.

Javi Sanchez was gifted with their first real chance of the match, before 28-year-old striker, Sergio Leon, shot straight at Thibaut Courtois from a tight angle. Alvaro Aguado also tried to catch the Belgian off guard from distance, forcing him into a stretched dive. It was clear how Real Valladolid were the happier of the two teams going into the break.

Second Half: Real Madrid fight back but the hosts remain resilient

Marco Asensio hit the side-netting from a tight angle early in the second half, and Antonio Rudiger miscued his second header of the game from Kroos’ corner. Valladolid suffered a double injury blow just as they looked to bounce back, and Ancelotti replied with two 65th minute changes in the form of Rodrygo and Lucas Vazquez, who began to have an impact once they could free their legs and run at the opposition’s defenders.

Another Courtois save kept the scores level, as the Belgian seems to have hit otherworldly levels this year and ended it on a big performance. Although Los Blancos’ vulnerability on aerial headers as a result of defensive set-pieces was there for everyone to see. A flurry of Real Valladolid corners and the game sprang into life once again. Then Ancelotti introduced Eduardo Camavinga into the fray.

Real Madrid find a way through, again

Rudiger rose to meet his third header of the game from a Kroos corner and the ball struck Sanchez’s arm yet again, this time gaining the attention of VAR. The penalty was rightly awarded and Benzema made no mistake from the spot and made it 1-0 to the visitors. Leon was sent off and multiple others were booked in the process.

The breakthrough and the sending off plummeted any chances of a comeback for Valladolid and Camavinga’s brilliant assist for Benzema’s second only ensured the same. Eight minutes of agonizing stoppage time followed.

Real Madrid can rest assured having won a serious game against difficult opposition. The likes of Asensio and Fede Valverde looked off the pace but that gave way for players like Ceballos and Camavinga to shine. Most importantly of course, Benzema and Courtois lead the way on either end of the pitch. Onto the next one in the Copa del Rey.