11 November 2012
Real Madrid played their seventh game in just over three weeks (one game every three days) in Valencia. The Whites were able to overcome four important injuries, a pitch that made passing the ball extremely difficult due to the heavy rainfall that the city experienced throughout the day and a stadium where no team has been able to beat the home side (they have won 8 times and drawn once). Ronaldo, who was taken off after the first half possibly due to the wound he suffered to his eyebrow caused by David Navarro at the beginning of the encounter, put the visitors ahead in the twenty-first minute and Ángel, halfway through the second half, brought the teams level. The Whites, who missed a penalty and hit the crossbar twice, settled the match in the eighty-fourth minute, once again from a free kick. Morata, who had substituted Özil one minute earlier, headed Xabi Alonso’s free kick with his first touch of the ball on his debut in the first team and sealed the fourth consecutive victory in the championship before the international break.
José Mourinho made up for the injuries to Higuaín and Benzema by playing Ronaldo as a centre forward, although at times he switched positions with Callejón and Di María. The formula supplied the desired result in a match that started with another incident and not just because of the pitch, which made playing football complicated. Ronaldo, who had the first chance of the match with a shot from an angle that Munúa stopped in the second minute, was struck by the elbow of David Navarro when jumping for the ball and began to bleed from the injury. Ronaldo was attended to by the doctors on the sidelines for five minutes before returning to the field.
The Portuguese did not let the home side off the hook with the next chance that fell to him. A free kick taken by Xabi Alonso was cleared by David Navarro, who got ahead of Pepe, but only into the six-yard area. Ronaldo, well-positioned, controlled it with his thigh and fired it past Munúa without letting the ball tough the ground in the twenty-first minute. 0-1 and the Portuguese, who is now the seventh best goal scorer in the club’s history in the championship (124 goals), scored a goal in one of the few stadiums where he had not scored in La Liga.
The match lacked chances, the pitch preventing them on many occasions, and the best alternative was free kicks, but the intensity of the match was severe. The fight for each free ball was immense and the two teams gave their all in search of their teams respective interests. Ramos’s attempt in the forty-second minute after a cross from Callejón was the last chance of note in the first half. Real Madrid headed to the changing rooms with the slightest of advantages, but an extremely important advantage given the difficult playing conditions.
Morata makes his debut in the first team and settles a match that his team deserved to win
The second half began with a change and a scare. Ronaldo, probably due to the spectacular blow he received to his left eyelid, was replaced by Albiol and, in the first minute of the second half Levante were the first team to create a chance. A powerful strike by Juanlu from 20 metres brought a spectacular stretching save from Casillas. The Whites did not take long to respond and did so three times in one minute. A long ball to Di María was played on to Callejón, whose shot was cleared by Munúa for a corner in the fifty-sixth minute. The Argentine took the resulting corner and attempted to surprise the home side’s goalkeeper with a shot from the corner, but once again the Uruguayan cleared. Another corner and another chance. Özil took the corner on this occasion and Pepe, on his own in the six-yard area, headed it and hit the crossbar having beaten the home side’s goalkeeper.
This was Real Madrid’s best period of play and only the posts prevented the visitors from scoring. Munúa failed to clear another corner kick, which was taken by Di María, and the ball was loose among a sea of legs. Ramos backheeled intelligently, but the ball ricocheted off Diop and hit the crossbar once again in the sixtieth minute. It was the second time the crossbar had prevented the Whites from scoring in barely four minutes. Di María also had an opportunity in the sixty-first minute, but failed to hit the target after beating the goalkeeper with a chip.
This all took place in the build to the equaliser, which was undeserved due to what was taking place on the pitch. A long ball found Martins, who passed the ball to Ángel, who beat Casillas with a chipped shot in the one-on-one in the sixty-second minute. Mourinho didn’t take long to react, removing Arbeloa from the match and bringing on Kaká; more attacking force in an attempt to push for victory. The Brazilian’s first touch provided Callejón with an opportunity to score, but the reserve team player was brought down from behind and Muñiz Fernández pointed to the penalty spot. Xabi Alonso took the penalty, which was saved by Munúa in the seventy-second minute.
From that moment until the end of the match the visitors continued to create chances and the deserved goal arrived eventually. Morata, who had replaced Özil in the eighty-third minute, settled the encounter with his first touch of the ball. The goal came, once again, from a free kick. Xabi Alonso took the free kick and the reserve team player headed the ball on his debut in the first team and sealed the victory before the international break.