Karim Benzema Salvages a Point for Real Madrid in 1-1 La Liga Draw vs. Valencia

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistDecember 15, 2019

VALENCIA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 15: Karim Benzema of Real Madrid celebrate 1-1 during the La Liga Santander  match between Valencia v Real Madrid at the Estadio de Mestalla on December 15, 2019 in Valencia Spain (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images)
Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Karim Benzema struck a 95th-minute equaliser as Real Madrid failed to go clear at the top of La Liga on Sunday, when Valencia held Zinedine Zidane's side to a 1-1 draw at the Mestalla.  

Carlos Soler punished Valencia's guests with his breakthrough in the 78th minute after Real failed to exploit a torrent of first-half pressure, but Benzema found a dramatic equaliser in the fifth minute of injury time.

Los Blancos move back level on points with leaders Barcelona ahead of their Clasico clash in midweek, failing to capitalise on the Blaugrana's 2-2 draw away to Real Sociedad on Saturday.

Casemiro was dropped from Zidane's XI for the first time this season in favour of Federico Valverde, who retained his spot and started for the fourth time in Real's last five league outings.

Fellow Brazilians Vinicius Jr. and Eder Militao also started on the Real bench. Isco was preferred on Real's right flank, opposite Rodrygo Goes on the left of striker Karim Benzema.

Real dictated play for most of the first half and forced goalkeeper Jaume Domenech into a number of good saves, with Benzema and Rodrygo the most prominent in their early attempts.

The midfield three of Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Valverde looked at ease for the most part. Journalist Deji Faremi praised the more defensive components of that trio for their effect in restraining Los Che's attack:

Deji Faremi @deejayfaremi

Valencia keep trying to get the ball to Rodrigo in the 'hole' and so far Real Madrid, with Kroos and Valverde, are making sure that doesn't happen

Soler looked like one of Valencia's most creative assets going forward while Dani Parejo pulled strings from their core.

The main concern for Albert Celades' side was a lack of consistent ball, with most of their counter attempts stubbed out before they could move within range of Thibaut Courtois.

Real blogger Matt Wiltse felt the Real stopper could have had a more direct hand in his side's attack, as has come to be expected of the world's top goalkeepers in more recent times:

Matt Wiltse @MattWiltse4

Madrid would have no problem breaking Valencia’s pressure if Courtois could pick a Madrid player out with one of his hoofs. Still needs to improve dramatically in this area.

Valencia's 19-year-old striker, Ferran Torres, came closest to breaking the deadlock for the hosts and kept Zidane's defence on its toes:

Dermot Corrigan @dermotmcorrigan

Ramos with pretty crucial / well timed sliding intervention when it seemed Ferran Torres was clear on the break...

The Real Champs @TheRealChampsFS

I am on the edge of my seat for Real's first goal, but I also have to admit that Ferran Torres has made me nervous going the other way.

Real boasted the great majority of possession at half-time, and it was again Valencia who struggled to build phases from the back and looked restricted to counters for the most part.

Celades' side nonetheless looked the better team for much of the second period, with Parejo conducting most of their moves from the middle and showing why he should perhaps start for Spain.

Vinicius and Bale replaced Rodrygo and Isco, respectively, after 70 minutes to offer a fresh approach on the left and right flanks, but it was Valencia who continued to look more likely scorers when they did threaten.

The best of the goalmouth drama was saved for late on, and Soler finally opened the scoring when he got on the end of a cute Daniel Wass pull-back across goal (UK and U.S. viewers only):

Premier Sports 📺 @PremierSportsTV

😱 VALENCIA TAKE THE LEAD! ⚽ Carlos Soler gets the breakthrough, and Real Madrid are now staring defeat in the face https://t.co/BFjeBUWooN


GOAL! ⚽️ Soler's 78th minute goal might have just won it for the home side! #VAL 1 - 0 #RMA #beINLiga #ValenciaRealMadrid https://t.co/Iw1AN4u0DE

Valencia held on with gritted teeth and relied on the video assistant referee to correctly rule out Luka Jovic's would-be equaliser in the 93rd-minute. 

Los Che attempted to slow the game but allowed Real into their half by doing so, and the resulting pressure ultimately became too much of a burden in defence.

Courtois came up for a corner deep into injury time and played his part in the goalmouth scramble that saw Benzema react fastest and rocket his effort into the top corner with seconds remaining (UK and U.S. only):

Premier Sports 📺 @PremierSportsTV

🚨 UNBELIEVABLE SCENES AT THE MESTALLA! ⚪ Real Madrid equalise with the last kick of the game! 😱 Thibaut Courtois almost scores a header, and then Karim Benzema scrambles the rebound home! https://t.co/RMFUyVjAb0


GOAL! 😮 Courtois gets up and thinks he's scored but Benzema is on hand to level things up right at the death! Drama in the final seconds. #VAL 1 - 1 #RMA #beINLiga #ValenciaRealMadrid https://t.co/kuJpiD3FgV

A deserved point could come to play a critical role in La Liga's title race come May, with veteran Benzema moving level with Lionel Messi at the top of the scoring charts following his 12th goal in the league.

Zidane's attacking substitutes eventually played their hand, though the manager will be frustrated his side were even made to chase the game considering the control they held for much of it.

Valencia (seventh) remain unbeaten in nine league games at the Mestalla this season, though they too will be kicking themselves having missed the chance to go level on points with Atletico Madrid in fifth.


What's Next?

Real travel to the Camp Nou on Wednesday to face rivals Barcelona in their first Clasico of the campaign, when they'll have a chance to move two points ahead at the summit. Valencia visit Real Valladolid on Saturday in Week 18.