Real Madrid destroyed a hapless Valencia side with a five-star first half performance at the Mestalla with Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo both scoring braces to add to Gonzalo Higuain's effort.
Higuain opened the scoring in the ninth minute, just moments after missing an easier opportunity. Mesut Ozil surged forward in acres of space after a poor corner from Valencia and his through ball found Di Maria - who pulled it back for Higuain to make no mistake with a cool left foot finish into the bottom corner.
Higuain almost went from hero to villain later on in the first half when a risky challenge saw Jonas go down in the box. There was slight contact but the referee deemed Jonas to have dived and produced a yellow card for the Valencia player rather than the penalty the home crowd were screaming for.
Valencia huffed and puffed, backed up by a noisy crowd, but they were too open to Madrid’s rapid counter attacks. Sami Khedira should have made them pay when he found himself one-on-one with Diego Alves, but he shot straight at the goalkeeper and the ball was deflected over the crossbar for a corner.
Khedira had another gilt-edged opportunity to make it 2-0 a few minutes later but he was again foiled by Lopez.
The second goal came soon after, however, when Di Maria tapped in from less than a yard out after some brilliant work from Ronaldo down the left hand side – which left the Valencia defenders chasing shadows.
Ronaldo punished the faltering home defence almost straight from the kick-off to make it 3-0, drilling the ball past Lopez at the near post after a simple through ball from Ozil and some more awful defending from Valencia.
Things went from bad to worse for the hosts when Ronaldo got his second and Madrid’s fourth with a powerful finish with his right foot after an exquisite touch from Ozil in the box.
Yet another Ozil assist set up Di Maria for the fifth just before half-time. As they had done throughout the half, Madrid cut Valencia open at will with German midfielder Ozil sending the Argentine clean through – and a cool finish saw boos ring out around the Mestalla from the home fans.
Valencia started the second half well with Pablo Piatti crashing a shot off the bar and Adil Rami unlucky to see his header cleared off the line from a corner. Tino Costa also went close a few minutes later with a powerful shot from outside the box.
The game soon ended as a spectacle though, with both managers making substitutes to key personnel ahead of Wednesday’s Copa del Rey quarter-final second leg between the two sides. Valencia will hope to put this result behind them quickly, but their chances of overturning a two-goal deficit in the cup against Jose Mourinho’s team seem slim based on this performance.
Madrid will take a lot of confidence from this result in what has been an up and down season. The defending champions are now 15 points behind Barcelona, after the Catalan side’s shock defeat to Real Sociedad defeat on Saturday.
That is still a huge gap to the top of the table, but Real will be pleased to have kept the deficit to their second placed local rivals Atletico Madrid to a slightly more manageable seven points.
Real Madrid controlled the ball for 44.1% of the match of play while completing 240 passes and getting off 13 shots.
Di María was in the thick of the action all day, and ended the match with 35 completed passes.
The three attempts by Higuaín were the most of any Real Madrid player.
Valencia enjoyed possession for 55.9% of the game.
Xotos had 20 shots, including four on target.
Tino Costa had five shots for Valencia, more than any of his team-mates.
- Sports & Recreation