Nine-Man Madrid Maul Valencia

Monday August 25, 2008 - 08:04:02
Shaafici Muxyidiin
Real Madrid 4-2 Valencia (agg. 6-5) An excellent second half showing from nine-man Real Madrid saw the blancos run out 4-2 winners over a Valencia side that lost its defensive shape in the second period...

After going 1-0 down in the first period and having a man sent off, a lacklustre Real Madrid side seemed to be dead and buried. However a fantastic turnaround in the second half, culminating in two goals for a side that was by then down to nine men, saw the Supercopa head from Seville to the capital. Valencia will rue throwing away a 4-2 aggregate lead to a depleted side, meanwhile, but overall they cannot complain too much, given that their defence once again toiled.

Madrid lined up without Robinho, the excellent but somewhat wasteful Arjen Robben playing the early stages of the game on the left of the attacking midfield. Guti and Rafael van der Vaart completed the trio that supported the two strikers, while Mamadou Diarrà played ahead of a back line that welcomed Pepe back to the line-up. Valencia "danced with those that brung them," fielding the side that managed the 3-2 win in the first leg, focused around the double pivot of David Albelda and Rubén Baraja.

First Half

In the earliest stages there was little to separate the two sides. Van der Vaart's fine long-range effort five minutes in tested Hildebrand, while Joaquín got on the end of a Miguel cross to test Casillas, but overall the 'keepers weren't troubled overmuch in the opening 20 minutes. Raúl, in fact, spurned a one-on-one after pouncing on a rebound from a Van Nistelrooy effort, but inexplicably blasted wide - his blushes were spared slightly by the fact that he was offside anyway.

Madrid moved Robben over to the right flank to test Moretti and Alexis, but in fact Valencia were having a fairly easy time of it at the back. Hildebrand was dealing admirably with the crosses, and few central plays of note developed.

Still, Valencia then opened the scoring with virtually their first shot on goal. Striding forward with confidence, David Silva carved out a small gap between the defenders on the edge of the box and drilled a low shot into the far corner. Casillas, unsighted, didn't even move as the ball trundled past him. Valencia were 4-2 up on aggregate.

Things went from bad to worse for Madrid as Rafael van der Vaart saw red. A terrible challenge on Mata - two-footed, studs-up, and with plenty of follow-through - saw the Dutchman shown a straight red card. This could potentially see him out of next week's Liga opener at Deportivo next Sunday, but coach Schuster was more concerned about this Sunday as the teams went in for half time.

Second Half

He needn't have worried too much, for what was to follow was nothing short of incredible.

Still, at that time he didn't know it. Making no changes, his side came out on the offensive, Valencia sitting back somewhat.

Two minutes after the break this was to cost them as, sustaining a period of pressure, they were to concede a penalty. Raul Albiol, jumping to meet a Ruud van Nistelrooy effort at the far post after a cross, hit the ball with his upper arm. For some reason he was spared the red card, but Hildebrand was not spared having to lift the ball out of the net as Ruud slammed the ball home.

Then came the changes. Vicente was on for Mata, and in a true signal of intent Drenthe came on for Torres to add some more attacking spark to a depleted left side. Indeed, with Van der Vaart off and Robben on the right, all the invention was coming down the opposite flank - and how. Robben, although lacking a final ball at times, had the Valencia double pivot and left-sided defence wrapped around his finger.

Nonetheless his task was made much harder when Ruud van Nistelrooy, already booked, went in hard and late on Ruben Baraja, earning himself a red card. Nine-man Madrid still needed to score, and suddenly it seemed that much harder.

Just five minutes later, though, Valencia's timidity again cost them as Sergio Ramos managed that vital strike. After a goalmouth scramble the full-back turned it in at the far post; much deliberation from referee Iturralde González followed, but eventually - to Valencia's displeasure - the goal was ruled onside.

Valencia coach Emery rolled the dice and brought on Morientes for Albiol as he needed a goal, but five minutes from time the game was to fall even further into Madrid's domain. Rubén de la Red, scarcely on the pitch ten minutes, seized the ball in midfield and ran forward from the centre circle until side-footing the ball goalwards from 25 yards. His looping, placed effort foxed Hildebrand, who could only palm it feebly into his own net.

As if to add insult to injury the nine men added a fourth. Alexis played a ludicrously short backpass to Hildebrand and, beating the 'keeper for pace, substitute Gonzalo Higuaín was able to score from a narrow angle.

Morientes pulled one back at his own stomping ground after a Villa assist in the dying seconds, but it wasn't enough. Madrid had done it.

As the players celebrated on the sidelines, one face was notably absent: that of Robinho. The Brazilian was very much off on his own, signifying that his future is more uncertain than ever. Nonetheless this seemed to be almost forgotten as Madrid gained yet another piece of silverware and Robben put in another jaw-dropping, if slightly frustrating performance. For Valencia, meanwhile, this must be a lesson learned. Los Che arguably sat back too much in the second period and invited pressure - their wingers barely saw the ball as hoofed clearances became order of the day - and coach Emery will no doubt have to think long and hard about how to adjust his side before the Liga fixture at home to Mallorca on Saturday.

0-1 Silva 32'
1-1 Van Nistelrooy 49' (pen.)
2-1 Sergio Ramos 77'
3-1 De la Red 85'
4-1 Higuaín 88'
4-2 Morientes 90'

Real Madrid: Casillas; Sergio Ramos, Pepe, Heinze, Miguel Torres (Drenthe 63); Diarrà; Van der Vaart, Guti (De la Red 78), Robben; Raúl (Higuaín 80), Van Nistelrooy.

Valencia: Hildebrand; Miguel, Alexis, Albiol (Morientes 82), Moretti; Joaquín (Pablo 67), Albelda, Baraja, Mata (Vicente 59); Silva, Villa.

Red Cards: Van der Vaart 39', Van Nistelrooy 72' -
Yellow Cards: Van Nistelrooy 52', Van Nistelrooy 72' - Alexis 78'

Referee: Eduardo Iturralde González

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