A sixth minute goal from Michael Owen gave
Real Madrid all three points in their vital Primera Liga clash against
bitter rivals Valencia.
Owen controlled a pass from Raul with the outside of his foot, advanced
into the Valencia penalty area, and fired the ball past Valencia keeper
Santiago Canizares and into the roof of the net.
Madrid then threatened to run away with the game against a Valencia who
lacked midfield organisation but in the second half, which became
increasingly untidy, the visitors almost snatched a late equaliser with
efforts from Mista and Pablo Aimar.
Before the international break, Owen was facing arguably the biggest
crisis of his career with his transfer from Liverpool to Madrid under
great scrutiny because of his inability to score.
Sven Goran Eriksson kept faith with the striker and Owen scored in
Earlier this week, he hit the back of the net for Madrid in the
Champions League and now he has another.
Going into the game on the back of a 5-1 Champions League defeat to
Inter Milan, Valencia coach Claudio Ranieri clearly erred on the side of
caution, playing three central midfielders in an attempt to balance
Madrid's attacking flair.
However, Madrid took them apart.
Before Owen scored his goal, the home side had already created three
Owen crossed when he could have shot in the second minute, Raul
threatened shortly after and then Luis Figo passed up an opportunity
when he found space at the edge of the area.
After the goal, Valencia never looked like closing Madrid down.
Michel Salgado fired just wide in the 26th minute and a minute later,
Ronaldo saw his shot saved after intercepting a poor ball from Ruben
Baraja, in fact, was able to play after having a suspension lifted on
Friday but after seeing his performance, the club will probably feel
they wasted the effort.
In the 35th minute, Owen could have had another only for his first touch
to let him down.
Ranieri reacted in the second half, bringing on live wire midfielder
Pablo Aimar for the disappointing Mohamed Sissoko in an attempt to spark
more life into his side, and Valencia certainly had a more positive look.
What did not improve was their attacking ability as ball after ball went
That began to affect Madrid, whose own game fell apart as well.
Zinedine Zidane worked hard for Madrid after the restart but the second
45 minutes were nowhere up to the standard of the first.
One attempt saw Santiago Solari rifle the ball wide 15 minutes from time.
The best two chances came in the last minute of the game.
In the 90th minute, Valencia substitute Mista fired high over from five
yards following a goalmouth scramble when it looked easier to score, and
almost immediately after, Aimar hit the ball at Madrid keeper Iker
Valencia, the reigning champions, got off to an excellent start this
season but they are now in danger of falling eight points behind
Barcelona should the Catalans win their game on Sunday.
Ranieri's men will feel they could have sneaked a point, but Madrid, who
are now seventh in the standings and six points behind Barca, were
worthy of the victory.
Real Madrid 1 x 0 Valencia
Jose Maria Guti
Cristobal Curro Torres
Marco Di Vaio
Venue: Santiago Bernabeu
Referee: Miguel Angel Perez Lasa
Yellow Cards: Gonzalez Raul (58) - Real Madrid; Mohamed Sissoko (21),
Cristobal Curro Torres (49), Miguel Angulo (60), Carlos Marchena (85) -
Goal: Michael Owen (6) - Real Madrid