Monday, 18 August 2008

Valencia strikes first

The season can be said to have officially kicked off with Sunday evening's first leg of the Spanish Supercup at Valencia. And evening it was, with a kick-off at 10:00pm local time, which must mean that everyone in Spain must be on holiday, or that Spaniards need less sleep than the mere mortals who watch other leagues.

Whatever the case, there was a certain sleepiness about Real Madrid, especially in the middle of the pitch and the makeshift defence, belied by the fact that they went ahead through Van Nistelrooy. The Dutchman showed that he has lost none of his killer instincts, latching onto a De la Red pass to slot coolly past Hildebrand.

Together with Casillas, who had by this time already made a couple of trademark reflex saves - one from Villa and a deflection by Salgado - they were Real's best players on the night (plus ça change...). Van der Vaart, making his official debut with the club, did look bright at times, especially on set pieces, which is a relief, given that Sneijder won't be back for a while yet.

By contrast, Schuster identified the trio of Salgado, Raúl and Robinho as the game's worst performers by substituting them part-way through the second half. Salgado, as has been the case for some years now, just does not have either the speed, nor the positioning to merit a spot on the starting eleven (if only he'd gone off to QPR...). Raúl just seemed to be suffering particularly badly from the generalised somnolence displayed by most of his team-mates and Robinho, despite loud assurances from all quarters, did look to have his mind elsewhere (South London perhaps?).

Valencia turned the game around with two goals in three minutes shortly after the break. The first, to Real's chagrin, was scored by Juan Manuel Mata, a product of Real's youth policy who was sold to Valencia last year. The second came from a header by Villa after an inch-perfect cross from that man, Mata.

Schuster brought Robben on, with almost immediate effect. A thundering run down the left flank, followed by a cross into the heart of the Valencia six-yard box saw his countryman, Van Nistelrooy, volley it past Hildebrand and draw the scores level once more.

But it was not to be. Ten minutes from time, Vicente, in a struggle with Ramos in the Real area, got his foot to the ball first and ensured Valencia travel to the Bernabéu next Sunday with a one-goal advantage.


Anonymous said...

You are aware that games regularly kick off at 10pm in Spain, right?.. I found your opening paragraph rather bizarre. Good summary otherwise

Gonzalo said...

Hi Anonymous. Yes, I am aware that late kick-offs are very common in Spain, all the more so in the summer. I just wanted to highlight that Spaniards must be made of sterner stuff to be able to support their team on a Sunday night at 10pm and still get up for work the following day. I don't think this happens anywhere else, at least in Europe.