When Real Madrid come to town everything kicks up a notch. A guaranteed capacity crowd, increased anticipation, and the Valencia night sky reverberating with the ‘Himno de la Comunidad Valenciana’ at fever pitch as the teams come out onto the pitch. This season’s clash had added intensity due to the contest being the first match Valencia had played since the catastrophic fire in the Campanar apartment blocks. A fitting tribute preceded the start of the match in memory of the victims of the tragedy, and to pay homage to the heroes of the emergency services who tackled the disaster on Avenida del Maestro Rodrigo.

The Real Madrid starting line-up also included Vinicius, which attached even further drama to the clash. Back in May last year, the Brazilian born winger suffered racial abuse from some sections of the ‘Curva Nord’ during Madrid’s 1-0 defeat to the hosts. He was also sent off that day after his emotions got the better of him as a result of the xenophobic chants. The red card was later rescinded and Valencia initially received a punishment in the form of a fine of 45,000 Euros and that section of the ground to be closed for five home matches. Three Valencia fans were also arrested.

The club appealed the decision of the Spanish football federation and had the sanctions reduced. The fine was cut in half and the Curva Nord was to lie idle for three games instead of five.The feud continued well after the event with additional social media and press comments by Vinicius criticizing the leniency and Valencia CF, leading to the striker being excessively jeered every time he touched the ball in this latest encounter.

Valencia went up two goals to the good inside the first thirty minutes to get the Mestalla rocking. The first had a touch of fortune to it, as Fran Pérez horribly messed up his shot on goal. His effort went sideways, but into the path of Hugo Duro who managed to swivel his head into a position to deflect the ball passed Lunin in the Real Madrid goal. A defensive lapse by the usually reliable Dani Carvajal enabled Yaremchuk to latch on to a badly weighted back pass to the keeper. The Ukranian kept his nerve and rounded his fellow countryman and slid the ball into the empty net to double the home sides lead.

Valencia fans could hardly believe the scoreline and were hoping the team could hold on to the two goal cushion, heading into the interval. Unfortunately, that was not to be the case as the referee found five additional minutes to the forty-five already played, and during that period Vinicius tapped in from close range in front of the Curva Nord… after Mamardashvili failed to cut out a cross from the right by-line.

The way the Real Madrid winger responded to the goal was to cajole and rile the Valencia fans with gestures and an attitude that no one likes to see from a professional footballer.

After half time, both teams had chances but Vinicius once again got on the score sheet to level the game and have the opportunity to goad the Valencia faithful once again. If a player is cautioned for taking off his shirt in celebration, then surely a deliberate attempt to provoke the opposition’s supporters should receive some kind of sanctioning as well.

However, the drama was not over. Real Madrid thought they had scored the winner when Bellingham headed into the Valencia goal, deep into injury time. Many of the home side’s defenders were distraught but it transpired that the referee had blown his whistle seconds before the ball had crossed the line.

For those old enough to remember, it brought back memories of the 1978 World Cup game between Brazil and Sweden. The Welsh referee Clive Thomas infamously blew the whistle as soon as a corner kick from Brazil came into play. Zico scored from the cross, which would have given his team a 2-1 victory in the group stage of the competition.

Like the Brazilians on that day, Real Madrid remonstrated aggressively with the decision of Jesús Gil Manzano. The official was surrounded by Los Blancos and as a consequence of their protests Jude Bellingham received a straight red after the final whistle was blown.

So, both Vinicius and Valencia had the last laugh but in fairness both teams deserved a point. Los Che are putting a good spell together at the Mestalla, having not lost at home in the league since last September.

On a sad note, Mouctar Diakhaby suffered an horrific injury that shocked players from both teams. He was stretchered off to a standing ovation, but initial reports suggest it is very serious and that he will be side-lined for the foreseeable future.

Lying just off the pace for the European places, the team have a game in hand over their rivals due to the Granada against Valencia match being postponed, at the visitor’s request, because of the Campanar tragedy.

The next home game is with Getafe and they will come into the match just two points adrift of Valencia. It also sees the return of José Bordelas and the first viewing of Mason Greenwood on the Mestalla soil in Getafe colours.

Things have not been going so well for Levante UD. They continue to lose important matches by the odd goal and they recently dispensed with the services of their coach Javier Calleja after only three wins in their last fifteen games under his command.

He has been replaced by the former director of football for the club, Felipe Miñambres. Levante, like Valencia had their match against FC Andorra postponed because of the horrific events in Campanar. So, the former Spanish international took charge for the first time against Oviedo in the Carlos Taritere stadium.

The Granotas displayed the same shortcomings that have been evident the last few months and went down by the odd goal in five, with another late strike for the opposition sealing their fate.

Levante UD Feminino remain in third place in Liga F and in strong contention for a Champions League spot. There was an international break recently so there has been very little league action the last few weeks.

The hiatus in domestic football turned out to be good news for the National team, as they won the “UEFA Women’s Nations League” with Montse Tomé’s side beating France 2-0 in the final. Levante players Alba Redondo and Maria Méndez contributed to the success of the squad, but neither played in the ultimate game of the competition.

Report by John Howden

Article copyright ‘24/7 Valencia’

Upcoming matches:

Valencia CF

Valencia CF v Getafe March 9th 14.00 hours

Villarreal v Valencia CF March 17th 16.15 hours

Valencia CF v Mallorca March 30th 18.30 hours

Granada v Valencia CF April 4th 20.00 hours


Levante UD

Levante UD v Sporting Gijon March 10th 16.15 hours

Levante UD v FC Andorra March 13th 19.00 hours

Burgos v Levante UD March 16th 14.00 hours

Levante UD v Elche March 24th 18.30

Valladolid v Levante UD March 30th 14.00 hours









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