Real Madrid closed the gap on Atletico Madrid to three points at the top of La Liga, battling to beat Real Valladolid 1-0 on Saturday evening.
Los Blancos almost fell behind early on, and had to rely on Thibaut Courtois to produce a stunning double save to deny Saidy Janko’s deflected strike at goal. Madrid recovered and took a hold of the game, although they failed to find a first-half breakthrough.
Mariano Diaz came closest for the champions, twice seeing his goal ruled out for offside, as the two teams entered the dressing rooms even at the break. Courtois was the hero at the start of the second half too, repelling a vicious volley after Ferland Mendy inadvertently crossed the ball into his own box.
And the Belgian’s heroics were rewarded at the other end of the pitch, when Casemiro rose highest to nod home Toni Kroos’ wicked free-kick. Madrid saw out the match to claim three massive points and take another step in their pursuit of league leaders Atleti.
Let’s check out the player ratings from a tense evening in La Liga.
Thibaut Courtois (GK) – 8/10 – Pulled off an insane double stop in the opening minutes to keep Madrid on level terms. Palmed away another shot from distance soon after. Stopped a powerful volley in the second half. A well earned clean sheet.
Lucas Vazquez (RB) – 7/10 – Always ran to the byline to try and clip a cross in from the right flank. Deployed as an attacking full-back with far less defending to do than usual.
Raphael Varane (CB) – 8/10 – Rocked by the initial chances which fell to the hosts, but grabbed a foothold as Madrid took control of the game.
Nacho Fernandez (CB) – 7/10 – Relatively assured at the back, and growing in his extended run at the heart of the side. Ran the risk of giving away a penalty, but escaped punishment for a flimsy tackle.
Ferland Mendy (LB) – 6/10 – Galloped up and down the left side, but did play a disastrous pass across his own box to almost hand Valladolid an equaliser.
Luka Modric (CM) – 6/10 – Offered some neat footwork and popped up in different areas of the pitch, trying to get Madrid moving. Couldn’t influence the game with his usual class and intelligence.
Casemiro (CM) – 8/10 – One of the best attackers of a set piece in Spain. Leapt brilliantly to power Madrid ahead. When they need a hero, Casemiro is so often there.
Toni Kroos (CM) – 8/10 – The pass master. Kept it simple when needed and then switched it up to bamboozle the Valladolid defence. Dangerous on set pieces as always, helping to break the deadlock.
Marco Asensio (RW) – 6/10 – Fancied his chances from range, curling over the bar from the corner of the penalty area. Didn’t run at the defence or ask enough questions. Subbed.
Mariano Diaz (ST) – 6/10 – Thought he had opened the scoring, but he strayed just offside in the buildup. Found the net a second time, but suffered the same fate.
Vinicius Junior (LW) – 6/10 – Saw very little of the ball in the first half, as Madrid looked to threaten down the right wing, rather than his left. Ineffective and subbed.
Sergio Arribas (RW) – 6/10
Isco (LW) – 7/10
Hugo Duro (ST) – 6/10