Two goals from Gonzalo Higuain were cancelled out by David Villa and Joaquin, but Ezequiel Garay scored the crucial winner at the Mestalla.
Despite the absence of Kaka and Ronaldo, Raul still could not find a place in Real Madrid’s starting line-up, with Rafael Van Der Vaart getting another start. As for Valencia, David Silva’s void was filled by Pablo Hernandez.
Los Che took the field knowing that a win would bring them level on points with their opponents, and they created the first chance, with Jeremy Mathieu, fresh from a goal in their last league game, seeing his shot deflected behind. It was all out attack from the hosts, with Los Merengues hardly touching the ball during the opening period.
Pablo Hernandez and Juan Mata were causing plenty of problems for Madrid, and only a combination of wayward shooting and last ditch tackles stopped Valencia from taking the lead. However, after withstanding the early onslaught, the visitors began to grow in confidence, with Karim Benzema shooting just wide on the half-hour mark, with Real Madrid’s first clear cut chance of the game.
With five minutes left in the first half, Higuain wasted a great chance, blasting wide after doing well to cut inside David Navarro. ‘El Pipita’ was looking lively, and he soon had another effort on goal tipped behind. From the resulting corner, Sergio Ramos headed against the post, and Cesar was quick to latch onto the rebound with Higuain lurking.
There was still one major incident in the first half, with Pepe landing awkwardly after a challenge with Villa, and clearly in serious pain. It did not take long for the stretcher to take him off, with Garay replacing him just before the break.
The second half started in cagey fashion, but on 53 minutes, Real Madrid had broken the deadlock. Benzema did well to get around Bruno on the left, and his cross was gleefully nodded into the net by Higuain. The goal seemed to spur Los Merengues on and they threatened further, although Navarro should have equalized when a corner found its way to him at the far post, only for him to head wide.
The miss was not to prove too costly, as Valencia equalized just before the hour mark. Mathieu swung a cross in from the left, and Villa rose high to head past Iker Casillas, much to the delight of the crowd.
Unfortunately for the home faithful, their celebrations were to be shortlived, as Higuain increased his tally five minutes later. The build-up involved excellent work on the right from Marcelo, who played the Argentine in, whereupon the striker finished expertly past Cesar to reclaim the lead for Los Merengues.
With 15 minutes remaining, both sides made a change each, with Raul replacing Van Der Vaart, while Joaquin replaced Navarro, who had just been booked. It looked as though the visitors had done enough to secure the win, but with ten minutes left, Joaquin found an equalizer. Mathieu was involved again, finding the winger on the edge of the box, who proceeded to smash a powerful shot past Casillas, to bring the sides level once more.
Given what had come before, more twists and turns were expected, and it was no surprise when Garay headed Xabi Alonso’s cross home on 83 minutes, to give the visitors the lead for the third time.
That proved to be the final strike of an eventful encounter, which saw Madrid break further clear of Los Che, and maintain the pressure on Barcelona.No tags for this post.