Karim Benzema continued his purple patch while Marco Asensio was sensational in his comeback game as Real Madrid beat Valencia 3-0 on Thursday.
The first half was an even affair, as Real Madrid started off in dominating fashion before Valencia begun taking the game to their hosts. Los Blancos were also quite lucky to go into the break with the score still 0-0 after VAR overruled a goal by Rodrigo Moreno after it emerged that Maxi Gomez was offside in the build-up.
Post the interval, it was clear that Real Madrid had woken up from their slumber and the deadlock was finally broken at the hour mark. Karim Benzema put the Merengues ahead after being set up by Eden Hazard, with the duo continuing their fine partnership. The hosts were then two to the good when Marco Asensio, making his comeback after a long layoff, scored from his first touch.
Asensio then turned provider to the round off the proceedings, laying the ball for Benzema, who produced a wondrous finish to seal the deal for his side. Real Madrid are now once again two points behind rivals Barcelona, who are set for a tricky outing against Sevilla on Friday. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Zinedine Zidane’s men.
Thibaut Courtois: 8/10
He did not have a great deal to do in the match, with Real Madrid dominating proceedings for the most part. However, Courtois was pivotal in ensuring that the scores remained level long before the hosts took the lead, making two top class saves, first a fingertip stop to deny Rodrigo Moreno before parrying away Geoffrey Kondogbia’s effort from range.
Dani Carvajal: 8/10
One of several Real Madrid players who seem to have returned after the three-month hiatus reinvigorated. Carvajal was a tireless presence on the right flank, going up and down his side without breaking so much of a sweat. A constant outlet in the final third, he impressed even more at the back, thwarting Ferran Torres and Maxi Gomez with a couple of important blocks. Back in his elements.
Raphael Varane: 6.5/10
A game of hits and misses for Varane. The usually dependable Frenchman had his struggles in the first half, particularly against Rodrigo Moreno, whose pace caused a lot of troubles in general for the Real Madrid back-line. Improved considerably post the break and hardly let anything past him in the final 45 minutes.
Sergio Ramos: 7/10
Like Varane, Ramos endured a difficult first period and looked all over the place. Lucky to be bailed out by VAR after he was caught out of position by Rodrigo before the goal was ruled out for offside. The Real Madrid captain was far better in the second half and showed his typical adventurous side as he started the move that led to Karim Benzema’s first goal.
Ferland Mendy: 8/10
Starting in place of Marcelo, Mendy was initially a non-factor when Real Madrid were dominating the proceedings early on, making one question the Brazilian’s exclusion. However, he was crucial at the back with an interception and a couple of tackles in addition to winning 6 duels. More involved in the final third as the game progressed and he provided the assist for Marco Asensio’s strike.
Federico Valverde: 6/10
Somewhat of an underwhelming performance by Valverde, who looked unsure of his positioning at times in what was to be a fluid front six. Nevertheless, his work rate against Valencia can hardly be doubted, as he helped cover a lot of space on the right flank. Needs to better his output on the ball next time out.
Luka Modric: 8/10
One of those aforementioned rejuvenated Real Madrid players, Modric looks a whole lot like the player who won the Ballon d’Or and had a spectacular first half of 2018. Showing a lot of enterprise higher up the pitch, the veteran Croat seems to be more nimble as well and covered a lot of ground against Valencia.
In an all-action performance, Modric played in 3 key passes and completed 10 of the 11 long balls he attempted while also making 6 interceptions and winning a couple of duels. Slowly but surely, Modric has gone back to his very best.
Another game. Another performance wherein Casemiro was a key player for Real Madrid. While he was a bit wobbly to begin with, there was no way past the Brazilian when he found his feet.
Casemiro had a whopping 102 touches against Valencia, completing 94 percent of his attempted passes, including 15 long balls. Off the ball, he was as reliable as ever, even winning the ball before starting the move for Benzema’s second goal in the game. A vital cog in Zidane’s side.
Toni Kroos: 9/10
Toni Kroos’ game by numbers vs. Valencia:
❍ 100% duels won (5/5)
❍ 100% tackles made (3/3)
❍ 128 touches (most)
❍ 105 passes attempted (most)
❍ 100 passes completed (most)
❍ 5 shots (most)
❍ 3 shots on target
❍ 2 chances created
❍ 2 interceptions
0 sweat broken. 🥶 pic.twitter.com/3kzqC6zGDb
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) June 18, 2020
Mr. Reliable in the Real Madrid midfield was on song once again when his side took on Valencia. In what was a scintillating all-round display, Kroos won each of his duels (5/5) and tackles (3/3), had the most touches in the game (128) and completed the most passes (100) while also aiming the highest number of shots (5).
One of these shots saw him nearly score from the same position as he did against Eibar. One of his 100 passes was towards Asensio in the build-up to Benzema’s second goal, a marvellous ball that opened up play beautifully. Just top class, to say the least.
Karim Benzema: 10/10
Real Madrid’s talisman seems to be back in rhythm and there seems to be very little stopping him now. When Valencia were taking the game to Los Blancos, it was Benzema who ran himself to the ground to help out defensively. But, he turned on the style post the half-time break. Benzema first opened the scoring with a peach of a finish after being supplied by Eden Hazard at the hour mark.
Benzema for Real Madrid:
⚽️ More goals than Puskas
🎯 More assists than Zidane
🏆 More trophies than C. Ronaldo
The most underrated player of his generation? pic.twitter.com/SrauXUnwYf
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) June 18, 2020
But, it was his second goal that was the highlight of the game, as Benzema took a brilliant first touch from Asensio’s pass before finishing with a volley with his left foot. That goal took him past Ferenc Puskas in Real Madrid’s all-time scorers list to now sit fifth on that leaderboard. A finish that makes him a contender for the Puskas award this year.
Eden Hazard: 8/10
The last two games have shown the kind of difference that a fully fit Eden Hazard can make. The Belgian was once again in fine touch, with his blossoming partnership with Benzema showing once again, this time against Valencia.
His assist to Benzema was a stuff of genius and Hazard would now be eager to get his second goal for Real Madrid after being thwarted by Valencia goalkeeper, Jasper Cillessen in a 1v1 situation. For now, he has become a pivotal player for Real Madrid.
Marco Asensio: 9/10
Marco Asensio had not played for Real Madrid in a competitive game since 19th May 2019.
With his first touch 329 days after tearing his ACL in a friendly, he scored.
Welcome back, Marco. 🙌 pic.twitter.com/g2VXkFuMBL
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) June 18, 2020
Making his first appearance in nearly a year, Asensio took just 31 seconds to get his name on the scoresheet, that too with a superb first-time finish. The Spaniard was not done, though, as he then provided the assist for the final goal of the game, a Karim Benzema goal that will live long in the memories of Real Madrid fans. Will be relieved to be back on the pitch.
Vinicius Jr.: N/A
A late introduction, Vinicius was a bundle of energy and continued Real Madrid’s relentless charge on the Valencia defence.