Jese Rodriguez scored a late winner as Real Madrid at last prevailed 3-2 against a resilient Valencia side at the Mestalla on Sunday night.
Angel di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo had twice fired Los Blancos ahead, only for Pablo Piatti and Jeremy Mathieu to twice equalise for the manager-less hosts.
However, with the clock running down, Ancelotti’s blushes were spared as young Jese fired home the winner to seal the three points for Los Blancos.
Here are some of the talking points from a pulsating match in Valencia.
The wry smiles that may have spread across Real Madrid’s fans' faces when Getafe raced to a 2-0 lead against Barcelona had well and truly disappeared by Sunday evening.
Inspired by Pedro, Barcelona had recovered to win 5-2, and all of a sudden it was Madrid—twice pegged back by Valencia—who were in danger of losing points in the title race.
A draw would have been disastrous, leaving them seven points behind Atletico Madrid and Barca.
Carlo Ancelotti turned to his bench, and he turned to the club’s academy as he chose to throw on Jese Rodriguez for Isco in search of a winner—and a winner he got.
Luka Modric’s threaded pass found Jese, and he fired in low shot at the near post, although Valencia stopper Vicente Guaita will not be keen to watch the goal—which is quite possibly the most important goal Madrid have scored so far this season—back.
Pizzi in 1997
It had already developed into a big night for Valencia before the action even got under way at the Mestalla against Real Madrid.
Three hours before kickoff, Amadeo Salvo, the club’s president, held a press conference to confirm that Singaporean entrepreneur Peter Lim was willing to take on the club’s debts and then contribute significantly towards improving the team and finishing construction on the Nou Mestalla, via insidespanishfootball.
All that is stopping the deal from being completed is the approval of Bankia.
Meanwhile, lining the comfy seats at the Mestalla were two members of a new-look Valencia setup following the dismissal of Miroslav Djukic in the week.
Former players Roberto Ayala and Juan Antonio Pizzi sat side-by-side, with the latter expected to take over as manager in the coming days according to Marca.
They’ll have been impressed with the performance their new players put in on Sunday.
The last few weeks have spawned talk from newspapers such as Marca suggesting that Angel di Maria is unhappy on the Real Madrid bench and is keen to force through a January move.
On Sunday night, the Argentine cast any thoughts over his future to the side though, leaving the talking to his feet.
Collecting a wonderful switched pass from Marcelo, Di Maria cut in from the right flank and curled a wonderful effort into the corner of Vicente Guaita’s goal—the Valencia stopper was helpless to stop it from sailing in.
Then, having seen Pablo Piatti equalise for Los Che, Di Maria proceeded to deliver a cross of the highest quality which Cristiano Ronaldo was never in any danger of missing.
His impact lessened in the second half, but his message had already been clear.
Pablo Piatti is 163cm tall and Sergio Ramos is 183cm tall, yet somehow the significantly smaller Valencia player ghosted in and headed Valencia level in the first half—Ramos left too much space after Luka Modric switched off.
Then, into the second half, Ramos was again beaten in the air, this time by Jeremy Mathieu, as Valencia equalised for a second time.
It was the third and fourth headers Los Blancos had gifted their opposition in just over a week, following the brace scored by Oriol Riera for Osasuna in Pamplona last weekend.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side have now conceded 21 goals in their first 17 league games of the campaign, which compared 17 conceded by the same point last season, and 16, 14 and 13 dating back to 2009-10 when Manuel Pellegrini was in charge.
Admittedly, Pepe and Raphael Varane were missing on Sunday, but they’ve looked shaky at times this season too—Madrid are not guaranteed to always profit from a ‘we’ll score more than you’ philosophy.
In the absence of the injured Sami Khedira, it has blossomed the midfield partnership of Xabi Alonso and Luka Modric.
Carlo Ancelotti has struggled to decide what his favoured midfield is, yet alone the most effective, but the two tasked with the job at the moment appear to be striking up a fairly good relationship.
Real Madrid always look better with Alonso in the side; he continually produces assured performances in front of the side’s back four, and his range of passing causes a constant stream of problems for opposing teams.
Alongside him, Modric is also an able, not to mention a very neat passer of the ball, but it is the Croatian's battling tendencies which have shown more in the past few weeks.
Against Valencia, the former Tottenham man racked up four challenges and six interceptions according to WhoScored, enabling him and his midfield colleague Alonso to run the midfield at the Mestalla.
Jonas' record in front of goal this season looks quite good—eight strikes in 13 La Liga appearances—but take away his hat-trick against Osasuna and his brace in the win over Sevilla, and he’s struggled to make the net bulge regularly.
Not that he should necessarily be expected too, he’s often considered more of an attacking midfielder than a striker.
However, against Real Madrid he started as the No. 9 due to the fact Paco Alcacer, Helder Postiga and Dorlan Pabon have only managed six between them.
Despite that, they still managed to score twice against Madrid, although, imagine if they had someone in the mold of David Villa or Roberto Soldado back up front—they might have ended 2013 having taken all three points from their final league match.