Estadio Jose Zorrilla, Valladolid – The spotlight was shining on a Real Valladolid home shirt, the purple and white strip was laid on the court and everyone in Madison Square Gardens applauded. At a time when La Liga and the US cannot be used in the same sentence without a debate ensuing, it was quite something that one of Spain’s oldest clubs was being openly promoted at an NBA basketball game in New York this week. But then again, that’s what you get with a superstar owner.
It was Ronaldo who had laid the shirt down in the centre of the basketball court after he’d been invited to do so during one of the time-outs. It is also Ronaldo who became the majority shareholder of Valladolid in September. One of Spain’s most historic clubs now has a rather iconic owner. Having only been promoted in the summer after four seasons in Segunda, Valladolid’s sole desire this year is to stay up. And so far, they have showed they are capable.
Coming into this season, there was most definitely a sense that Los Pucelanos would have a tough task on their hands; they barely spent any time in the promotion places last season and only got in the play-off places following a late surge, which they consequently won. But most importantly their top goalscorer Jaime Mata left to join Getafe and his 34 goals – which made Valladolid the top scorers last term – would be sorely missed.
But with Ronaldo arriving in the stands and a positive start to the season, there is a sense of optimism amongst the Valladolid fans along with the realism. Having such a famous former player as your owner brings added headlines and intrigue. But also there are the contacts that he can bring. News this week broke that they are trying to acquire the services of Vinicius Jr from Real Madrid on a loan deal; “Of course I would like to see Vinicius at Valladolid,” Ronaldo said.
There is ambition at Valladolid and it would be unfair to say that has only arrived with Ronaldo. Yet it must be remembered that they had failed to secure their first win back in Primera until Ronaldo took up the reigns five games into the season, then four consecutive victories followed and propelled Los Pucelanos off the bottom of the table. Since then Valladolid’s results have been mixed, but they have not lost by more than two goals in any of their matches which must be commended given they conceded 55 last season and are a newly promoted side that have already gone to Sevilla, Real Madrid and hosted Barcelona.
In fact Barcelona were given a tough test when they came to Castile y Leon – albeit that was partly down to the awful pitch that they had to play on – with only a single Ousmane Dembele goal splitting the sides. Whilst two late goals saw Real Madrid edge past them at the Bernabeu. Valladolid have been competitive if not as spectacularly wild as they were last season in Segunda.
It was expected that coach Sergio Gonzalez would have to adapt the approach that Valladolid deployed, and they have. Enes Unal – brought in from Villarreal in the summer – has brought energy to the attack and has been crucial in giving Valladolid impetus when transitioning from defence to attack. What has also spurred Valladolid on is that there are teams far less convincing than themselves in the league this season. If Valladolid’s approach remains positive then they have the ability to stay up.
The match against Atletico Madrid presented Valladolid with another chance to show their fighting spirit. In front of their home support, Los Pucelanos competed with Atletico from the start. Deploying a 4-4-1-1 formation, the hosts aimed to make the central areas fairly compact and use the creative Toni Suarez and Unal to lead the attacks.
It was not the easiest of starts for the hosts, however. Atletico – buoyed by last weekend’s 3-0 win over Alaves – were in confident mood themselves with the chance of moving onto level points with league leaders Barcelona, overnight at least. It was Antoine Griezmann lead his side into a two-goal lead going into half time. He firstly laid off Nikola Kalinic with a superb through ball so the Croat could scored his second goal of the season halfway through the first half.
Then the French striker doubled Atletico’s lead on the stroke of half time. After Kiko Olivas handled Griezmann’s long-range shot, and referee Senor Undiano Mallenco pointed to the penalty spot after consulting VAR, the Frenchman slotted past Jordi Masip with a neat penalty. Again Atletico were showing their ruthless best.
Valladolid did not deserve to be two goals down at half time, although it could have been more had Masip not been in such good form in goal. On the balance of play, Valladolid were more than pulling their own. Oscar Plano sent a shot narrowly over the crossbar whilst Unal saw his graze the post.
What came to the fore at the start of the second period was the hosts’ courage; far from being cowed by their opponents – and the scoreline –, Valladolid took the game to Atletico. Jan Oblak was tested on more than one occasion and Atletico’s defence had to be cautious of the movement of Unal.
With 10 minutes of second half play having passed, Fernando Calero halved the deficit when he met a corner kick with a header that went into the bottom corner of Oblak’s goal. The game was level soon after when Saul Niguez inadvertently pushed Unal’s header into his own net. Valladolid had restored parity and were looking for the winner; such is there attitude and positivity. The crowd were raucous and the hosts were fighting.
The final quarter of the match was vibrant and nervous in equal measure. A draw appeared to be settled but with 10 minutes left there was a further twist. Following a penalty area scramble, Griezmann composed himself to fire the ball through a plethora of purple and white shirts and past Masip.
The hosts couldn’t believe it, they sat on the turf exhausted and frustrated. “Valladolid died with their boots on,” claimed one headline. The courage of the hosts was clear to all; their spirit and fight had pushed Atletico until the end and in truth deserved more, but it will set them in good stead to survive this season.
Los Otros Puntos
[Copy and paste] Valencia draw…again. This time 1-1 against Eibar, but what was more concerning for Marcelino was that Gabriel Paulista and Francis Coquelin – and no, it wasn’t some sort of Arsenal reunion – went off injured to add to the already hefty list featuring Goncalo Guedes, Toni Lato, Geoffrey Kondogbia and Kevin Gameiro. Valencia may need to invest in additional treatment tables as more questions surrounding Marcelino’s vigorous training approach are raised.
“This [Real] Madrid is boring,” was Diario AS’s headline whilst Marca ran: “The Bernabeu gets bored”…there’s clearly a theme developing here following the rather dull and uninspiring 1-0 win over Rayo Vallecano.
| FULL TIME |
The goal that won Real Madrid the game ?
Great work from Benzema, switching play to Vazquez, directs to where he wants it then hits it straight in the back of the net ? pic.twitter.com/V7YyvUJ792
— ELEVEN SPORTS UK (@ElevenSports_UK) December 15, 2018
“For those further away from the pitch, we recommend tying knots in the scarves when you throw them so they travel further during the protest,” this was the instruction given to supporters on the leaflet being distributed ahead of the planned protest against the rumoured sale of Sevilla. What the fans cannot protest about though is matters on the pitch, as Los Nervions remain on the coattails of Barcelona.
| GOAL! |
A flowing Sevilla move results in Pablo Sarabia doubling their lead! ?
This will see them heading second in #LaLiga ? pic.twitter.com/DiGCsHjQHw
— ELEVEN SPORTS UK (@ElevenSports_UK) December 16, 2018
That’s because Barcelona comprehensively beat Levante to remain top of the pile.
Celta Vigo 0-0 Leganes
Getafe 1-0 Real Sociedad
Valladolid 2-3 Atletico Madrid
Real Madrid 1-0 Rayo Vallecano
Eibar 1-1 Valencia
Sevilla 2-0 Girona
Espanyol 1-3 Real Betis
Huesca 2-2 Villarreal
Levante 0-5 Barcelona
Alaves – Athletic Bilbao to be played on Monday
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