as de espadas
torero con estoque


Madrid into the semi-final as they underline their superiority

José Mourinho's team saw Coentrao and Di María sent off, as well as an injury to captain Casillas.

For Valencia the only way to face up to this match was the application of amnesia. Selective amnesia. To forget the recent past and remember what went before, when Madrid trembled at the Mestalla. They didn't manage it. With Cristiano's first run the bad memories came flooding back. Of goals like burning arrows. Just as happened three days ago every Madrid counterattack set off waves of panic in the Valencia line. Not that there is an antidote to the white stampede; back off and you end up in your net, caught like a butterfly; attack the ball and they jump you like a schoolboy leaps a wall. In spite of the disastrous panorama Valencia survived the danger until the 43rd minute, something not without merit. During the whole time though, they were swimming with piranhas, bathing with the sharks. In their desire to close down their rival Valverde brought the defence back and put out what could be called 'prudent pressure' higher up. While those at the sharp end chased the game, the rest were watching and praying.

It was still an uphill struggle, but Valencia enjoyed some chances, almost all from dead ball situations. After three minutes a highly motivated Valdéz nearly scored with a header from a corner. After seven Cristiano hit back with the same piece of play that gave him his first goal on Sunday, a sprint and shot inside the near post. But Guaita isn't Diego Alves and he got down safely.

With less than 15 minutes gone the meteorite Valencia had been dreaming off crashed from the heavens into the Real Madrid goalmouth. Casillas, kicked by Arbeloa, went off injured. The crowd gave him a sympathetic ovation, tinged with relief. There was also some shock, given that the Madrid's goalkeeping situation is now bordering on the esoteric. Some, higher, being appears to be set on making mischief for Mourinho. They don't know who they are up against.

But that wasn't the rhythm of the match, unfortunately, though our battered hearts breathed a sigh of relief. The match became bogged down and the two defences bossed the play. Madrid's back line were well ordered, Valencia's highly concentrated. The difference was important: some could blink, others couldn't. It only took the slightest distraction, augmented by Joao Pereira's nervousness (facing Coentrao and Cristiano) for Ricardo Costa to leave the door open. And bam! Benzema slammed it shut.

Seen from the perspective of the league game (0-5 at half time) this was a decent result from Valencia. Their next achievement was not to rest on their laurels. Their constant probing forced Madrid into various high risk challenges, with Coentrao being sent off for two yellow cards. He is a footballer who has a tendency to lose the script when acting near the ball.

Tino Costa brought the game level with a well hit free kick, though the goal showed Adán up, as no-one got a touch to the ball as it came through. Valencia got better and Madrid sat back to hold on as they had done when 5-0 up, conscious of their cushion of goose feathers three goals deep.

Real Madrid spent the last few minutes enjoying the fact they were in the semi-finals, while Valencia spent them defending the pride of a great club. Di María was sent off for kicking out at Joao Pereira, but that didn't damage the overall image, just his own. Madrid's superiority wasn't up for discussion, despite all the ink spilt over the first leg.

Estadísticas AS.com