Late Sergio Ramos penalty seals win for Real Madrid against Valladolid

Real Madrid’s luck has changed with their manager. Their play is another matter but they have at last won again in the league after five matches without victory. Santiago Solari, the interim coach who replaced Julen Lopetegui, took up residence on the touchline at the Bernabéu, from where he spent much of the afternoon listening to a concerned quiet occasionally punctured by frustrated whistles. In the end, though, he did see his team win.

Real Valladolid smashed two shots against the bar, wasted two wonderful chances and drew a superb save from Thibaut Courtois. But with seven minutes left they scored an own goal and they then conceded a penalty, which Sergio Ramos scored. Madrid, who had withdrawn Gareth Bale 20 minutes from time, found a way through, relief engulfing this place.

“I’d like to win 7-0 and score three overhead kicks but that’s not always football,” Solari said. “Sometimes there’s more happiness, more joy, and sometimes you need other things. We needed this win. Football is emotion, personality, self-confidence too. You feel those 80,000, their emotions, and it’s hard. The players had patience, they were fantastic and in the end they did it.”

They did so with the aid of Vinícius Júnior – the teenager who played a more central role in the downfall of Lopetegui than even he may realise and upon whom expectation had been loaded. A presidential protege, demanded by some in the boardroom and pressroom, he played more minutes here than he has all season, 20, and it was his shot that rebounded off Kiko Olivas and into the net – releasing footballers who have felt the finger of blame pointing their way.

Early in this game, a banner was raised while fans stood in silence. Fans, it should be noted, whose role, and whose messages, are club approved. “For this badge you have to die on the stands and on the pitch,” it read – reproach for players accused of lacking commitment. Their silence was then broken by chants demanding “balls”.

Mostly, however, there was quiet, a fairly timid series of Madrid approaches – headers from Bale, Karim Benzema and Casemiro – going by against a backdrop of little emotion. Until, that was, Antoñito was clean through and clipped his shot over, drawing whistles. There were more when Toni Villa shot wide, Enes Unal had the game’s best chance, Rubén Alcaraz’s shot crashed off the bar and Villa drew a save from Courtois. More too when Valladolid played with worrying clarity and tranquillity.

The visitors were the better side; at times it seemed Madrid were at their mercy. Fortune, though, favoured the men in white. Villa smashed another shot off the bar and Solari removed Bale, whistled off, and Marco Asensio. “Be daring,” he told Vinícius.

Solari sought a reaction and while it might be an exaggeration to say he got that, Madrid did get the goal, victory, breathing room. At one end, Courtois pushed away a venomous shot from Daniele Verde. At the other, Vinícius’s shot, so wayward it was heading for a throw, met Olivas on the way. Then Benzema was brought down. Ramos, captain culpable according to many, clipped in from the spot and embarked upon a celebration that spoke more of vindication than joy.

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