Real Madrid’s revival under Santiago Solari appears to be back on track after they moved up to fifth in La Liga with a 2-0 win over Valencia on Saturday.
An own-goal from Valencia’s Daniel Wass gave Madrid an early lead before Lucas Vazquez added a late second to wrap up their sixth win in seven games under their new coach.
The 3-0 thrashing by Eibar last weekend, in Solari’s first official game in charge, had placed the depth of the recovery in doubt but this was another assured display to back up an impressive Champions League win over Roma in midweek.
‘We did not play well against Eibar but we were good in Rome, and we were really good today,’ Solari said.
Madrid move two points behind Barcelona and only three adrift of leaders Sevilla, albeit with both still to play on Sunday. Valencia stay 13th.
Marcelino’s side, attempting a comeback of sorts themselves after a poor start to the season, offered disappointingly little, save for a 20-minute spell at the start of the second half.
‘We deserved to equalise,’ Marcelino said. ‘For a long time in the second half we were better than Real Madrid.’
Otherwise, their opponents controlled the contest and while Gareth Bale’s league drought stretched to 10 games, his longest ever, the Welshman played a lead role in an energetic performance before coming off in the second half.
He appeared to signal some discomfort with his right thigh when sitting on the bench, with Solari confirming afterwards that Bale had ‘felt a problem’.
The Santiago Bernabeu was almost packed out, eight days before Boca Juniors and River Plate are due to play here in the postponed second leg of the Copa Libertadores final.
With La Liga still pushing for Barça’s game against Girona to be staged in Miami, there was perhaps something to be savoured in two Spanish teams, in a Spanish competition, playing in a Spanish stadium.
Isco is one of Spain’s primary talents but is still to be picked in a starting line-up by Solari.
This was the midfielder’s seventh consecutive game out of the side and while he came on to cheers, 10 minutes with Madrid already ahead were only crumbs for comfort.
Bale seemed more pinned to the left wing than he has been for a long time and he rolled back the years with a straight run down the line before whipping in an early cross. Karim Benzema’s ambitious volley sailed just wide.
Madrid had made much the better start and in the eighth minute, took the lead.
Wass headed into his own net but Dani Carvajal led the celebrations. He kept the ball alive before rummaging past Gabriel Paulista and Jose Gaya. The flicked cross gave Wass too little time to react.
Valencia made hardly any impact on the half, pressed and harried into submission. Neto skewed a clearance under pressure but then made up for his error by denying Bale from close range.
Fortunate only to be one behind, Valencia improved after the break. Santi Mina blazed over with only Thibaut Courtois to beat. Gaya’s cutback was slightly misplaced. Paulista volleyed over on the stretch from three yards.
Bale was replaced by Marco Asensio, who should have given Madrid breathing space but his finish was blocked by Ezequiel Garay.
Isco came off the bench in the 80th minute and played a part in the second goal. The excellent Carvajal was again the instigator, setting off on a barnstorming break forward before exchanging with Isco and crossing.
In the rush, Benzema did well to pick out Vazquez, who poked home to complete a convincing win.