After a terrible first half which basically featured a Karim Benzema goal and nothing else following by an equally terrible opening to the second, Valencia vs. Real Madrid at the Mestalla did something strange. It turned surprising. Sure, there was just as much bad blood in the last half hour as there was during the fifteen minutes, but it translated to good football and amusing little tiffs rather than just the tiffs, which are far less endearing on their own.
As boring as the first half was, Benzema's goal merits a mention - a set piece from inside the Madrid half needed just three touches to find its way to the back of Diego Alves's net. The first was from Xabi Alonso, who launched a lovely long ball straight into the path of Benzema, who took it in his stride with his first touch before ripping a shot past Diego Alves with his second. It was excellent, and the rest of the half was not.
It looked as though we were heading for a boring 1-0 draw after the opening period of the second half featured mostly pushing and petulant little fouls, but the game suddenly sprang to life when Sergio Ramos headed in an inch-perfect corner to make the score 2-0. Valencia replied instantly, Roberto Soldado supplying an inch-perfect finish past Marcelo's outstretch leg after Iker Casillas could do little more with Daniel Parejo's initial shot than parry it to the waiting striker.
Then it was Real Madrid's turn to score again, Cristiano Ronaldo taking advantage of a misjudgement by Diego Alves to curl home from a silly angle, a goal which caused Jose Mourinho to mount Jose Callejon with what looked very much like the utmost of joy. But, in this crazy game, not even a 3-1 lead was safe, and Soldado somehow managed to ghost onto the end of an acrobatic Pablo Hernandez pullback and bring the score up to 3-2. Suddenly there was tension again, and the last few minutes of the match were... frenetic.
Soldado grabbed his third goal in spectacular fashion in the ninetieth minute only to be ruled offside. A late free kick say Diego Alves in Casillas's penalty area in the final minute of the four added on, and only a spectacular save and the crossbar stopped the ball from finding the back of the net. Seconds later and an inbound shot struck a still-prone Alonso on the arm before bouncing away to safety, causing the Valencia players to go berserk demanding a penalty. None was forthcoming, the corner was cleared, and Real Madrid had notched their 11th straight victory in all competitions. They've had easier wins.