Valencia and Real Madrid played out a frenetic 2-2 draw with Karim Benzema, Dani Parejo, Gareth Bale and Paco Alcacer goals and a Mateo Kovacic red card.
Benzema netted after a move that involved his BBC colleagues Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo, feeding the former, who found the latter, and a Ronaldo no-look lay-off later saw Benzema clean through on goal, the forward slotting past Jaume Domenech.
Valencia came into the game as the half time whistle approached and their pressure was eventually rewarded when Pepe unfairly stopped Andre Gomes’ charge into the penalty area and Parejo converted.
Mateo Kovacic was shown a straight red card just past the hour mark for a lunge on Joao Cancelo, moments after Ronaldo had a strong penalty appeal ignored for a double foul – first by Aymen Abdennour, then perhaps by Jaume Domenech.
Gareth Bale put the 10 men ahead with a powerful header from Toni Kroos’ free kick with 10 minutes to go but Madrid could barely last a minute, Paco Alcacer levelling after Rodrigos De Paul and Moreno combined.
Rafa Benitez, back at Mestalla, left out James Rodriguez and replaced him with Kovacic in a 4-3-3 formation, Gary Neville mirroring his opposing trainer in terms of shape and both sides fielding a player by the name of Danilo.
A stop-start opening had Alcacer’s claims for a penalty ignored, a Danilo – the Madrid one – shot high over the crossbar and a dangerous cross by the aforementioned just miss Gareth Bale.
There was also a banner unveiled by the home fans in tribute to the visiting Coach, reading: ‘Rafa, you gave us the best years of our lives. Thank you.’
The home fans were feeling less charitable when Madrid took the lead, Benzema finishing off a slick move that he started and also involved Bale and Ronaldo, Los Che having previously been guilty of some nervy defending.
Referee Jose Maria Sanchez Martinez raised the ire of the home fans and players when he stopped play as Gomes burst forward, Benzema’s writhing in agony concerning the official enough to bring the game back.
Cancelo passed up Valencia’s best chance of an equaliser as the right-back, pushed forward by Gary Neville, met De Paul’s cross but his header lacked all direction.
Gomes saw a shot deflected wide after he was slipped in by Rodrigo and the resulting corner could have given Abdennour a chance after the ball dropped in the six-yard-box, but he couldn’t shake the attention of Pepe.
Valencia ended the half on the front foot, putting pressure on Madrid, but couldn’t fashion a chance as good as the ones spurned earlier.
Indeed, it took a Pepe lapse to bring Valencia level after he brought down Gomes and Parejo made no mistake from 12 yards, though Bale thought he’d been fouled in the Valencia area moments before.
Madrid had the first opening after the interval when Benzema bundled his way through and cut back for Marcelo, but Lucas Orban snuffed out the shot from his fellow left-back.
Marcelo was involved again when he felt he was fouled by Antonio Barragan and then knocked over the right-back when he voiced his disagreement – and Barragan was soon booked for a foul on Sergio Ramos as he stretched to reach a through ball.
Gomes, arguably Valencia’s standout player, forced Keylor Navas into a panicked save with a shot from range, the goalkeeper appearing to change his mind at the last moment and punch the powerful shot away.
Kovacic’s red left Madrid a man down and they were nearly 2-1 down when Navas hesitated on a back-pass and was closed down by Alcacer, cannoning the clearance against the striker from inside the six-yard box.
Instead it was 2-1 to Madrid through a Bale header from Kroos’ set-piece but little more than a minute later, Alcacer restored parity.
The Madrid centre-backs were drawn to Rodrigo Moreno from De Paul’s cross and Alcacer was unmarked in the six-yard box to head past Navas.
That was where the scoring ended, despite Alvaro Negredo and Bale both going clean through in the final seconds, as Neville’s wait for a first League win goes on, and the pressure stays on Benitez, following a thrilling encounter.
Valencia 2-2 Real Madrid
Benzema 17 (RM), Parejo pen 45 (V), Bale 82 (RM), Alcacer 83 (V), Kovacic s/o 68
Valencia: Jaume; Barragan, Abennour, Santos, Orban (Rodrigo 80); Parejo (Negredo 83), Andre Gomes, Danilo; Cancelo, Alacer, De Paul (Fuego 87)
Real Madrid: Navas; Danilo, Ramos, Pepe, Marcelo; Kroos, Modric, Kovacic, Ronaldo, Benzema (Lucas Vazquez 67), Bale
Referee: Jose Maria Sanchez Martinez