Real Madrid 4-3 Real Valladolid: Rating the Players
Both teams are pretty much where they will be at the end of the season—Madrid trailing Barca in second place, while Valledolid sit safe in mid-table—so it seemed that perhaps one or two goals were on the cards.
Thankfully, it wasn't so. It was a seven-goal thriller at the Bernabeu which included Cristiano Ronaldo's 198th and 199th goals since joining Real Madrid. Valladolid put up a good fight, but once Madrid entered their second gear it was fairly routine, at least until Valladolid's late third goal which set up a last-minute scramble.
This is how the players got on.
Real Madrid Defence
Diego Lopez, 6: He was not his usual assured self, and perhaps he could have spread himself better for Valladolid's first goal. He was strong in the air, but he had a slight wobble when dealing with Oscar's audacious long-range chip, a moment that had the full attention of Iker Casillas. He was forced to make a few saves in the dying minutes.
Nacho, 3: Targeted as Madrid's weak link by the Valladolid midfield, he initially struggled to contain Omar Ramos and Mikel Balenziaga. He was caught lagging for Guerra's goal, and despite a slight improvement in the second half, he never looked comfortable.
Pepe, 5: Nowhere near his imperious best, the Portuguese international just about compensated for Ricardo Carvalho's early ineptness in the air by making a few important clearing headers. The highlight of the game was a rocket header that forced an excellent save from Merlo.
Carvalho, 4: He did not look confident early on and was off the pace, struggling to keep up with the speed of the Valladolid forwards. A slight second-half improvement which saw a couple of clearances saved his grade.
Coentrao, 4: Coentrao never really started this game, with his best period being the last 20 minutes which saw a few runs up into the box. Frustration seemed to blight him for most of it, with Patrick Ebert keeping him on his toes.
Real Madrid Midfield
Di Maria (off for Alonso), 6: Yet to reach the heights of last season, the Argentine made a decent start before gifting the ball to Oscar for Valladolid's first goal. However, he soon made up for it by forcing an own goal from Marc Valiente and went on to deliver a solid performance, including setting up Ronaldo's 32nd-minute goal, before being substituted for Xabi Alonso. Typically industrious.
Alonso (on for Di Maria), 5: With not much time to make a difference after replacing Angel Di Maria, the midfield maestro steadied Madrid with his hard-but-composed play without really breaking a sweat.
Modric, 8: The Croatian playmaker was wrongly labelled as Madrid's worst buy of the summer by the Spanish public, and today's performance showed exactly why. A frustrating first half—mainly due to most of his teammates having not woken up properly yet—was put behind him with a stellar second half. Modric controlled the pace with all the composure we have come to expect from him.
Khedira, 6: He had a bad first half, leaving too much space for the Valladolid midfielders, and he was often caught on the turn by the pace of the opposing forwards. A second-half improvement saw the German international marking much tighter, which in turn allowed his partner Modric more freedom to play the ball around.
Kaka (off for Ozil), 6: The Brazilian is after a new contract, and he was certainly trying to illustrate why he deserves one. A goal helped his case, but while he did get himself about and put several good balls through, it wasn't enough. He was replaced by Mesut Ozil.
Ozil (on for Kaka), 7: For the 20 or so minutes that Ozil was on the pitch, he did more than enough. The German international had an immediate impact, taking the corner from which Ronaldo scored his 199th Real Madrid goal, and kept the Valladolid defence on their toes with his quick, darting runs.
Ronaldo, 6: The fact that he got nowhere near his full capabilities yet scored twice shows just how good this guy really is. He barely featured for the first half-hour before flicking in Di Maria's cross on 32 minutes, and he scored again from a Mesut Ozil corner for his 199th Real Madrid goal. He was unlucky not to complete the hat-trick with a looping free kick that crashed into the bar.
Real Madrid Strikers
Benzema (off for Higuain), 6: Initially a lack of space and service frustrated him, but he eventually found his feet and held up the ball well. He made a fortuitous assist for Kaka's goal and had one ruled out for a marginal offside himself. His tricky runs around the edge of the box caused panic in the Valladolid back four.
Higuain, 2: He did nothing of note, except provide a tame execution for Ozil's deft lay-up and draw a yellow card for a cynical foul on Sastre.
Real Valladolid Defence
Jaime Merlo, 7: Merlo was unlucky, in that despite making five or six good stops, he also conceded four goals. He should have perhaps done better with Kaka's effort, which he got a hand behind but wasn't strong enough to keep out. Still, a brilliant reflex save from Pepe's bullet header remains the enduring image.
Rukavina, 5: He initially did well, stifling Ronaldo and preventing him from really entering the game for nearly a half-hour. He pushed forward enthusiastically and delivered a few decent crosses, but eventually he began to tire as Madrid's superior quality came into play. He was lucky not to concede a penalty for handball.
Rueda, 4: Having looked fairly comfortable for the first quarter of the match, the partnership with Valiente slowly eroded and turned into a backs-to-the-wall job for much of the second half. Some good tackles helped keep his side in the game, but in the air he was uncertain.
Valiente, 4: He was unlucky to cancel his side's lead with an own goal, which seemed to unravel the confidence he had built for himself. As the midfield in front of him got picked apart, he began to look nervous but kept Valladolid from completely capitulating.
Balenziaga, 6: He was the best of Valladolid's back four even though he was not exactly defensively sound, though he handled Di Maria far better than expected. Some good runs caused problems, but his crosses seemed to sail over everyone barring Pepe.
Real Valladolid Midfield
Ebert, 8: The German international turned in a typically steely performance, running tirelessly while his teammates flagged around him. He was unfortunate not to steer Balenziaga's cross on target, and he put good balls into the Madrid box until the opposition took control. Ebert is lively, confident and definitely one to watch.
Rubio (off for Sastre), 4: Rubio enjoyed a good game with his midfield partner until, much like the rest of his side, Madrid took over. He was afforded far too much space in the first half by Khedira and Modric, only to find himself choked in the second, and then replaced by Sastre.
Sastre (on for Rubio), 6: I was just about to write that Sastre had done very little, but of course he would then go and score a spectacular goal. And a volley at that. The ball looped into the air, coming down just outside the box to connect with the boot of Sastre, flying past a stunned Lopez. Highlight of the match.
Perez, 5: This could read almost identically to Rubio's section. The midfield pairing combined well, creating some good chances with well-timed through balls, but it ultimately could not compete once Madrid started playing.
Ramos (off for Bueno), 6: Ramos latched onto a delicious slide-rule pass from Oscar to swing the ball across goal for Guerra to tap home in a move that was almost footballing perfection. He served as a good outlet for Perez and Rubio, but then Madrid started playing and the wheels came off the bus. He was replaced by Alberto Bueno.
Bueno (on for Ramos), 5: He cut inside to force a parried save from Lopez, which Oscar should have converted, but the shot was tame. Other than that, he did not make much difference.
Real Valladolid Forwards
Oscar, 7: He added to his goal tally, making him Valladolid's top scorer for the season on 12. He intercepted a bad pass from Di Maria to run on goal and calmly slipped the ball under the onrushing Lopez. He also provided the cutting pass that sliced the Madrid back line to shreds for Guerra's goal and had another chance to score from Bueno's parried shot, but his strike was weak.
Guerra, 5: Guerra tried again and again to get behind the opposition, but other than his 35th-minute goal, he could not do the job. He was stifled by Khedira and Pepe in the second half.
Manucho: He came on too late to have an effect.