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Valencia put the brakes on distracted Madrid

Higuaín put the whites ahead after 10 minutes, but Valencia levelled the game through Jonas. Diego Alves had a fine game.

The reigning champions suffered their first shock on their debut. A stumble against the only rival who looks capable of following, at some distance admittedly, the wake of Real Madrid and Barcelona on their journey to win, provided nothing changes, the reduced league fought out between the two. The tournament has only just started, and although there will be surprises along the way, there are few who doubt how the season will ultimately develop.

This match was a duel, fought at a leisurely pace, excusable because it's the start of the season and it was 35 degrees in the Bernabeu, but which helped Valencia organise their defensive manoeuvres and made Madrid's attacks easy to read.

That said Madrid start this league offering the same as they did at the end of the last one, a dynamic image with a powerful punch. With only 10 minutes gone Madrid were on top on the scoreboard, with Valencia still trying to settle on the field of play. A good pass from Di María and better work yet from Higuaín, who beat Víctor Ruiz and Ricardo Costa on the turn and vanquished Diego Alves, despite the keeper making two excellent blocks, saw the ball in the back of net at Higuain's third stab at the ball.

Once in front Madrid re-discovered old bad habits and started coasting, although this can likely be put down to the excess of confidence that comes from knowing you are better, and that any problems that arise can be solved by scoring more goals, without needing to work too hard. It's what happens when a league contains no more opposition than your own demands and the pace Barcelona set.

Madrid never achieved much fluidity in their play, with Xabi Alonso once again the only real reference point in the middle of the pitch. The unexpected presence of Lass brought nothing more than the initial surprise at seeing him in Mourinho's starting line up.

As a creative partner Xabi could turn to Di María, whose passing always found Higuaín and which the Valencia defence found impossible to defend. Cristiano, who played less of a role than normal, and Özil, likely unsettled by the possible arrival of Modric, both looked absent. Casillas was also off colour and it was his error in coming for a ball into the box that let Jonas equalise for Valencia. Casillas failed to get the ball but did smash into Pepe, who needed to be bandaged up and then didn't come out for the second half. Albiol replaced him and the Spanish international did his job.

Valencia didn't mind the slow pace that ate up the game. They were happy soaking up the pressure at the back and hoping for a chance that never really came. The only one that did was ruled out for a doubtful off-side against Soldado, who would have ended up one on one with Casillas. Madrid also had their claim for an unfair decision, for a possible penalty from Gago on Di María.

Madrid finished as so often, suffocating their rivals, who resisted thanks to sterling efforts from Diego Alves. Madrid had all their attacking guns out, with Callejón, Cristiano, Özil, Higuaín and Benzema on the pitch, with Xabi Alonso as the only midfielder. Urgent solution or a message? Any explanation is valid.

Estadísticas AS.com