Real Madrid were held to a frustrating 1-1 draw by Real Valladolid at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday as Sergi Guardiolas late equaliser cancelled out a Karim Benzema strike.
The opening exchanges were dominated by Los Blancos, with Valladolid unable to get out of their own half. The first chance fell to Gareth Bale, who was unable to convert an Isco cross. The hosts continued to dominate and had another opportunity on 12 minutes, with James Rodriguez - on his return to the team - setting up Bale, but the Welshman poked it just wide from ten yards.
The away side could have been awarded a penalty midway through the first half after a rash tackle from Sergio Ramos, but the referee (and VAR) decided against it. Zinedine Zidanes men continued to pepper the Valladolid goal, but the score remained goalless at the break.
The hosts tempo fell after the restart, with chances becoming more limited. However, Luka Jovic almost found the back of the net with his first touch, seeing his header cannon off the post seconds after coming on.
Real were eventually able to break the deadlock in the 82nd minute as Benzema instinctively turned and fired into the bottom corner from the edge of the area. However, the drama didnt stop there as Guardiola equalised with a low shot past Thibaut Courtois with two minutes of normal time remaining.
Key Talking Point
Despite Reals window of heavy spending, the starting lineup featured two players in Bale and James who had been deemed surplus to requirements earlier in the summer.
James was also given the roaming role, in which he could drift and dictate play from all areas of the pitch. The expectation before the game was that Isco would be the man to occupy this role, but Zidane placed his faith in the Colombian.
The fluidity of the attack was particularly impressive, with players interchanging freely and seemingly knowing where their teammates would be. It was also apparent that plenty of work had been done on the training ground, with James nearly finding the net from a well-worked corner routine.
Real were eventually able to take the lead, but the worry for fans will be that they were unable to see out the final ten minutes of the match. The players continued to push forward after they had taken the lead, leaving them exposed and Valladolid exploited it - in some ways, it was naive.
Zidane is playing all of us. Goes from "not wanting" James and Bale to playing them both in the starting eleven. #RM #RMLiga #4dchess
— Hector Caso (@HectorCaso) August 24, 2019
Starting XI: Courtois (6); Carvajal (6), Ramos (7), Varane (7), Marcelo (6); James (8), Casemiro (6), Kroos (6); Isco (6), Benzema (6), Bale (8).
Substitutes: Lucas V (N/A)., Jovic (6), Vinicius Jr. (6).
STAR PLAYER - James was simply sensational on his return to the team. His ability to dictate the game while also carving the opposition open at will was something that will particularly please Real fans.
The attacking midfielder had a wonderful understanding with his teammates, despite this match representing his first competitive appearance since he returned from Bayern Munich. The 28-year-old nearly found the net on three separate occasions in the first half, showing that he is an all-round threat.
He may not have been able to get his goal or assist, but it was a very promising performance and his role could be crucial to Los Blancos this season - particularly when Eden Hazard is able to return. The partnership he will form with the Belgian could be lethal, and it may just be what Zidane has been so desperately searching for in the transfer market.
Bale and James have been on fire in the first half. bring it on #RMLiga
— Nakko (@naahkkko) August 24, 2019
Starting XI: Masip (6), Moyano (6), Kiko Olivas (5), Salisu (6), Martinez (6), Porro (5), San Emeterio (5), Herrero (5), Oscar Plano (6), Unal (6), Sergi Guardiola (7).
Substitutes: Antonito (N/A), Rubio (5).
Real Madrid next travel to face Villarreal on Sunday, who have only picked up one point from their opening two matches.
Similarly, Valladolid face a trip to take on Levante, who have one once and lost once in their first two round of fixtures.