19 August 2012
Three months later, almost 100 days, 99 to be exact, the Liga returned to the Santiago Bernabeu. The return of the Liga saw Real Madrid held to a draw despite being far superior to their opponents. The Whites had almost 20 clear opportunities to win the encounter, 11 corners and a clear penalty that was not awarded by referee Delgado Ferreiro. Higuaín put the home team ahead and Jonas, in the closing minutes of the first half, equalised with what proved to be Pellegrino’s team’s only shot on goal. In the second half there were more and more opportunities for the Whites, who came across an inspired Alves and even the crossbar from a Higuaín header. The start to a season is always difficult, but this Real Madrid team, the same squad that won 100 points and scored 121 goals last season, showed clear signs of their pride and wining mentality.
With suffocating pressure up front and plenty of balance in the midfield, Real Madrid was the first team to fire a warning shot, doing so on two occasions barely inside the first five minutes, both shots coming from the forwards. Cristiano Ronaldo was the first to shoot in the second minute, and Di María did the same two minutes later, before setting up Higuaín to put the Whites ahead on the scoreboard. The Argentine’s precise pass was made the most of by his fellow countryman who, in the right position, controlled the ball, and after three attempts, beat Alves. Higuaín scored Real Madrid’s first official goal of the season and only needed 9 minutes to do so.
Nothing changed after the goal. Real Madrid and Valencia shared possession of the ball but the hosts were the only team to convert the possession into opportunities. Xabi Alonso from outside the area in minute 23, Özil, who struck badly with his right foot in minute 34, and Cristiano Ronaldo, who attempted a volley and a poor clearance Alves in minute 39, all had chances to score the second goal. However, the best opportunity fell to Coentrão. A spectacular one-two between Higuaín and CR7 and the Portuguese player’s inviting pass left his fellow countryman in front of the visiting goalkeeper. His shot was cleared by Alves, who put the ball behind for a corner.
Everything seemed to point towards Real Madrid heading to the dressing rooms with an advantage on the scoreboard, but bad luck had other designs and with four minutes remaining in the first half. A free-kick taken by Tino Costa and Jonas stole a march on Casillas to beat him with a header. It was the visitors only shot on target and after the play both Pepe and the Madrid captain had to be attended to, after clashing in the air with teammate Xabi Alonso. Both received knocks, although the defender was the worse off of the two, ending the first half with a bandage around his head and had to be substituted by Albiol when the game got underway after the break.
A rush of opportunities after the break
Real Madrid was the dominant team in the second half. The Whites were dangerous and Valencia defended as they could and attempted to surprise the Whites on the counter attack. The opportunities kept coming and Mourinho, courageous and attacking, gambled by adding more cutting edge to the team. Benzema replaced Lass in minute 60, and from that moment the hosts had ten clear opportunities to score their second goal. Higuaín had the clearest of the opportunities, but his header met the crossbar after beating Alves minute 65.
Real Madrid was a force to be reckoned with. Özil once again came across an inspired Alves in minute 66, Benzema was off target in front of goal in minute 67 and this was the case for another ten opportunities. Even Di María claimed a clear penalty. The Argentine, was knocked down by his fellow countryman Gago, fell down injured and had to be replaced immediately by Callejón, who could have given his team victory but whose great left-footed shot was brilliantly stopped by the Valencia goalkeeper in minute 82. More and more opportunities came until the final whistle, bringing to an end an undeserved draw for a team that has showed clear signs of their pride and wining mentality. The Whites return to action on Thursday at the Camp Nou, with the Spanish Super Cup up for grabs.