The genius of Mesut Özil is as unpredictable as it is vital for Real Madrid. Talent is always necessary, but all the more so in times of crisis. It was this talent from the German that allowed Madrid to claw their way back tonight, and will see them return home from Valladolid unscathed. It was a match that the reigning Liga champions made difficult for themselves with some sloppy defending from dead balls; with such an uncomplicated route to goal were Valladolid able to put their opponents against the ropes.
Madrid needed two moments of brilliance from the Özil, a player who has become indispensable when they find themselves mounting a fight back, to turn the score around. His skilful move resulted in the equalizer just before half time, and a wonderful free-kick from that much-admired left foot clinched the three points later on. But until then, Madrid sailed through a storm running the risk of ending up adrift.
The team in white were built to face big challenges, but yet they almost ruined their match in Valladolid when some of the most basic questions were posed from dead balls. Maybe it's a problem of concentration, or aptitude, or a bit of both. What's clear is that it's a deeply-rooted issue which Mou has yet to find a solution to. Manucho took advantage of the red carpet that Madrid rolled out for him on corners to score two goals with gusto and put the away team in a very tricky situation.
The match started when the ball at the feet of Valladolid players, while Madrid created the clearest opportunities. That was a trend that didn't take long to swing the other way; that happened when Manucho celebrated his first goal. There were scarcely seven minutes on the clock when the Angolan found himself free in the six-yard box after a delivery from the corner flag to fire home.
Valladolid responded to this bit of generosity from Madrid with their own gift. Callejón benefited from Balenziaga's mistake in passing and a slip from Valiente to set up Benzema for an equalizer.
Manucho emerged again after the exchange of presents to celebrate his second goal, converting Ebert's corner with a header. Ramos was on the wrong side of his man and could only watch as he leaped freely to give his team the advantage again. Casillas meanwhile didn't go out to claim a ball that could easily have been his.
After that, Madrid took control of possession, but without showing depth or spark against the well-organized lines of Valladolid. The home team were owners of the situation until Özil popped up to provide the perfect climax to a spectacular move. 2-2.
After starting at left back, Nacho stayed in the dressing room at half time; he was replaced by Di María. Callejón, who had been playing in the Argentine's position, moved to left back, with Di María on the right and Özil on the left of centre midfield, and Cristiano in the hole behind Benzema.
Mourinho's changes were unconvincing, and indeed the coach made more switches soon afterwards. He took off Arbeloa, the other full back, to bring on Modric. He moved Ramos to the right side and surprisingly brought Xabi Alonso into the centre of defence to partner Pepe, Khedira and Modric sitting in front of them.
As the game took on a life of its own, Madrid seemed the most comfortable and Valladolid the most insecure. They were given a let off when the referee mistakenly ruled Ramos offside just before he beat Dani.
With both teams looking unsure of the direction to take, the enormous talent of Özil emerged against to decide a match that was losing focus. Varane came on for Benzema mere moments after Madrid's third, in yet another tactical reshuffle. The Frenchman went to right back, Ramos took up his old post in the centre and Xabi Alonso returned to centre midfield, with Cristiano as the player furthest up the field for Madrid. And that was the shape that marked the final moments of a match that was only settled by the presence of Özil on the pitch.