Gonzalo Higuain struck early in what seemed like would be an easy win for Real Madrid, but Jonas’ goal just before half time eventually endured and gave Valencia an unplanned point from the Santiago Bernabeu to open the season with a 1-1 draw, while Cristiano Ronaldo failed to open the season with anything more than frustrated faces.
It was supposed to be simply a continuation of last season, which Real Madrid finished on a high note, and not just because of the title but because of the style and scoring record. The 5-1 win against AC Milan in the preseason signaled that Real were planning to keep the same kind of scoring pace this year as well, while Ronaldo showed he’s not planning on losing in the Pichichi race for a second straight year.
But plans and reality don’t always co-exist, and a fantastic day from Diego Alves, Valencia’s goalkeeper, gave the team’s new head coach, Mauricio Pellegrino, the club’s former player during their league title winning seasons with Rafa Benitez, quite a few reasons to smile about on the flight back to Valenica.
Valencia tried to play their usual style, which led to a fantastic 0-0 draw at the same stadium last season, but this was all about Real Madrid missing and missing while Cristiano Ronaldo served mostly as an attention grabber. Pellegrino decided he was going to let Higuain, Benzema (who started on the bench) and Mesut Ozil try and beat him while Ronaldo was closely marked. Higuain did score after 14 minutes, but the rest of the match simply went Valencia’s way.
Despite shooting only 5 times at goal as opposed to Real’s 24 attempts, including 9 on goal, Valencia do have a reason to feel hard done by after a completely legitimate goal by Roberto Soldado in the second half was disallowed by the referee at the pretense of a non-existent offside. Real Madrid showed that they still have problems defensively, be it the actual defenders (and especially Pepe or Albiol) or something in the midfield that might be fixed if Luka Modric actually arrives.
Panic? Spanish papers will love to create it, but there’s no real need. Madrid dropped points early last season on more than one occasion, and we all know how it ended. On any other day, they would have scored at least three goals. Ronaldo will have better days, and it’s a matter of concentration and a little bit of luck, for now.