In the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarterfinals, Real Madrid escaped with a 2-0 victory over Valencia at the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday afternoon.
Valencia will need to make up that goal disadvantage next week at Mestalla Stadium if it wants to advance to the semis against the winner of Barcelona and Malaga.
While the goal total may not be all that overwhelming, this one had 90 minutes of fast-paced, non-stop attacking action.
It's not so much that the defenders were completely off their games, but each side was able to make lightning-quick counter attacks down the sideline and play threatening balls into the box all day long.
Some fantastic goalkeeping, questionable refereeing on a few offside calls and poor finishing in the final third, however, kept the goal count low.
The scoring got started in the 37th minute, although it could have been much earlier.
Real Madrid struck on a blazing-fast counter attack, and Karim Benzema—after some fabulous build-up play by Michael Essien and Sami Khedira—found himself one-on-one with the goalkeeper.
From there, he slotted it near post in clinical fashion:
The rest of the action was full of more back-and-forth movement, prime chances and disappointing misses.
Madrid did manage to add a late second goal when Fabio Coentrao delivered a wonderful low cross right in front Mesut Ozil. Jose Andres Guardado was able to get in front of it, but he made horrible work of it and the ball trickled into the corner of the net for an own goal.
You have to wonder if Valencia will be kicking itself for that one come the second leg of this battle.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid: B+
It was the best of Ronaldo, it was the worst of Ronaldo.
On one hand, the world-class striker made his typical dangerous sprints down the sideline and set up teammates with several beautiful passes that most times would have resulted with assists.
On the other, he blew two sublime chances in the final 15 minutes with very poor efforts at the goal.
Ronaldo proved why he is arguably the best player in the world with the ball at his feet, but his finishing wasn't as deadly as usual.
Jonas, Valencia: D
Jonas made plenty of good runs to free himself for good opportunities in the final third, but much like Ronaldo, his final touch left much to be desired.
The Brazilian striker was stoned by Iker Casillas from less than 10 yards out on multiple occasions, but the real atrocious effort came in the second half when he controlled a rebound and missed a wide-open goal that would have tied the game at one.
Mesut Ozil, Real Madrid: A
In the 87th minute, Ozil made a heavenly run through multiple Valencia defenders into the box and just nearly missed curling the ball into the side netting. It was inches from being one of the best goals you would have seen all season.
That play was a microcosm of the German's day.
He constantly held onto the ball, set up teammates with long, searching passes and was a major reason for the own goal. It's hard to find many things he did wrong.
Guaita, Valenca: B+
The Spanish goalkeeper gave up two goals, but there wasn't much he could have done about either of them.
Overall, he made several wonderful saves and did a good job slowing down Madrid's relentless attack.