A late goal from Marco Asensio helped Real Madrid rally from a late deficit to earn a 2-2 draw versus Valencia in a thrilling contest on Sunday night at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid.
Asensio opened the scoring in the first-half with a sublime finish, but was then well-matched by a Carlos Soler score. Valencia then stunned the Bernabeu with a 77th minute goal from Geoffrey Kondogbia, but Asensio would get his second of the night via free-kick in the 83rd minute to complete the scoring.
All told, even though it came in week two, this could well go down as the match of the season in LaLiga. There were lead changes, dramatic near misses, great saves and a tremendous level of football exhibited by both teams.
Manager Zinedine Zidane fielded as strong as an attacking line-up as possible without superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, with Marco Asensio accompanying Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema up front and Isco, Luka Modric and on Kroos in midfield. The suspension of centre-back Sergio Ramos also resulted in Casemiro taking up that role in defence.
Every match Real plays, Asensio always seems to be in the thick of things; almost like the game is getting easier for him, and his goal to give Real an early 1-0 lead was the latest example. The 21-year-old Mallorcan scooped up a giveaway in the Valencia half, made a move to his left and sweetly stroked in a left-footer that Valencia goalkeeper Neto didn’t even budge on.
But Valencia have a habit of making life difficult for Spain’s big two on their respective home pitches and Los Che were able to expose Casemiro’s lack of familiarity at centre-back when Gaya found Lato down the left and the cross was perfectly timed for Carlos Soler to knock home to even things up at 1-1.
Benzema must have wondered what he needed to do to score, as the Frenchman came achingly close on five different occasions to finding the back of the net in the first 45 minutes, either to be off-target, denied by Neto or rejected by the post.
Several eyebrows were raised to start the second half when it was announced that Mateo Kovacic had come in for Isco, but reportedly the latter was suffering from illness. Another malady affecting Real though was Valencia’s ability to go toe-to-toe with real in midfield, led by the impeccable Dani Parejo and the slippery Soler.
Real’s lack of finishing, notably from Bale in the second-half, plus Valencia’s stubborn defence made the Bernabeu increasingly nervous. Neto was also at the top of his game, and he did very well to get down and block and dipping line-drive from Modric.
Valencia also had their fair share of looks as well, including when Soler picked out Simone Zaza only to see the Italian send a header just over Keylor Navas’ crossbar. The Costa Rican goalkeeper then had to soar to his left to paw away a Parejo free kick.
Los Che were growing with confidence and fancied themselves a second goal as the match approached the final quarter-hour. The anxiety inside the Bernabeu continued to grow and their worst fears were realized as Rodrigo managed to toe-poke a ball back for Kondogbia and the Frenchman fired in past Navas to hand Valencia the shock 2-1 lead.
But the longest minutes in football are defending a late one-goal lead at the Bernabeu and sure enough the comeback spirits were summoned to make their first appearance in 2017-18 and channeled themselves through an Asensio free-kick that curled right past the Valencia wall, leaving Neto flat-footed and making it a 2-2 contest.
Even without Mr. Stoppage Time, Sergio Ramos, Real were flying toward the Valencia goal and it was all set up for Benzema to score the winner when a loose ball fell perfectly for him, but inexplicably the No. 9 shot wide. Benzema was then gifted another chance moments later, but again was denied by the post.
There was one last slice of drama to come on a late Valencia counter-attack, but Zaza opted to take one mote touch when a shot might have beaten Navas, and Real avoided what would have been a heartbreaking end.
Real will resume action following the international break on September 9 versus Levante.
2.- Real Madrid: Keylor; Carvajal, Nacho, Casemiro, Marcelo; Modric, Kroos, Isco (Kovacic, min. 45); Bale (Lucas Vazquez, min. 74), Benzema, Asensio.
2.- Valencia: Neto; Montoya (Vidal, min. 75), Vezo, Murillo, Lato; Carlos Soler, Parejo, Kondogbia, Gaya; Zaza, Rodrigo (Santi Mina, min. 88).
Goals: 1-0, min. 10: Asensio; 1-1, min. 18: Soler; 1-2, min. 77: Kondogbia; 2-2, min. 83: Asensio
Referee: Fernandez Bordalas (Andalucia). Yellow Cards: Montoya (Min. 49) for Valencia, Nacho (Min. 54) for Real Madrid, Casemiro (Min. 60) for Real Madrid, Parejo (Min. 66) for Valencia, Rodrigo (Min. 81) for Valencia. Soler (Min. 84) for Valencia
Red cards: None
Stadium: Santiago Bernabeu