Karim Benzema Scores as Real Madrid Held to Draw by Real Valladolid

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistAugust 24, 2019

MADRID, SPAIN - AUGUST 24: Karim Benzema of Real Madrid competes for the ball with Javier Moyano of Real Valladolid during the Liga match between Real Madrid CF and Real Valladolid CF at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on August 24, 2019 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)
Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Real Madrid stumbled to a 1-1 draw against Real Valladolid in their home opener for the 2019/20 season in La Liga on Saturday.

Karim Benzema's 82nd-minute goal nearly proved enough to see Los Blancos to another three points, but Sergi Guardiola hit back two minutes from time. Valladolid had stayed in the game thanks to the efforts of goalkeeper Jordi Masip.

The stalemate at the Santiago Bernabeu stalled Los Blancos' early-season momentum following last week's 3-1 win away to Celta Vigo.

Despite picking an attacking lineup featuring Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez and Isco, Zidane's team struggled to find its range in front of goal. It didn't help that Masip was in formidable form.

The 30-year-old produced a number of stops, with his best denying Benzema from close range:

LaLiga @LaLigaEN

Great save from Masip! 📛 @Benzema was THIS close to his 150th goal in #LaLigaSantander... #RealMadridRealValladolid https://t.co/sTwgPuQUqI

Real kept the pressure on, with Bale proving a threat in the air. Meanwhile, Rodriguez wasn't shy about trying his luck from distance but couldn't find the finishing touch.

Inefficiency up top encouraged less familiar goalscorers to take chances in an attempt to break the deadlock:

Dermot Corrigan @dermotmcorrigan

Carvajal with very ambitious 25 yarder into the crowd behind goal. Madrid up to 14 attempts at goal, without seriously troubling Masip.

Los Blancos hadn't scored, but Zidane's men were owning the ball and moving it intelligently and at pace. The most assured player in possession was Toni Kroos, whose radar was on point throughout the opening 45 minutes:

OptaJose @OptaJose

100% - Toni Kroos completed all of his 53 passes against Real Valladolid and created the most chances of any player in the first half (4). Engine. https://t.co/MuUNqHWHlj

Things deteriorated into scrappy fair during the second half. Both teams committed and drew their share of cynical fouls, slowing the pace of play and disrupting the flow of the game.

Bale and Benzema missed with headers, while substitute Luka Jovic planted one on the bar. Valladolid might have even stolen it at the other end when Enes Unal played in Waldo Rubio, but Thibaut Courtois stood tall.

The scare spurred Los Merengues into taking decisive action. It came when Raphael Varane set up Benzema to apparently win it with a landmark goal eight minutes from time.

LaLiga @LaLigaEN

🌟1⃣5⃣0⃣🌟 Karim Benzema scores his 150th goal in #LaLigaSantander! 💜 #RealMadridRealValladolid https://t.co/m0gNW4h9cC

Thinking the points were safe, Real dropped a level after the goal, and Guardiola profited. The forward made no mistake after reacting quickly to Oscar Plano's through ball.

Real paid a heavy price for profligacy in the final third. Zidane is still reliant on familiar aces such as Benzema despite a summer of heavy spending to acquire the likes of Jovic and Eden Hazard.

The latter's thigh injury has robbed Los Blancos of the pace, vision and trickery they sorely need.


What's Next?

Real are away to Villarreal on Sunday, Sept. 1, while Valladolid will be in Levante a day earlier.