Owen finds match-winning groove

Real Madrid 1 - Valencia 0

Michael Owen has had a memorable week. The England striker scored his second goal in two games on Saturday to earn Real Madrid a confidence-boosting 1-0 win at home to wounded champions Valencia and help silence the critics who had begun to doubt whether he was worthy of a place among the galacticos.

The former Liverpool striker opened his account for Real on Tuesday when he grabbed the winner in their 1-0 Champions' League win over Dynamo Kiev with a Gary Lineker-style close-range finish after he had darted in front of two defenders to turn in a low cross from Ronaldo.

This time his goal was a rather classier effort, the sort he must have dreamed about when he first decided to swap what he likes to call "the comfort zone" of Anfield for the pressure-cooker atmosphere at the Bernabeu.

The move began a few metres inside Real's own half when Zinedine Zidane off-loaded the ball to Raul after shaking off the attentions of the Valencia midfielder Momo Sissoko. The Real captain, who was quick to spot Owen's run, threaded the ball through the Valencia defence and the England man fired the ball high into the net in a confident finish with the outside of his foot from 15 yards out.

"It's been an important week for both me and for the team," Owen said. "I'm feeling more comfortable all the time and it's always good news to get on the scoresheet. The two wins have given us an important boost and even though we aren't scoring that many goals we are improving."

The Real Madrid coach Mariano Garcia Remon had decided to repeat the attack-minded line-up that had helped to beat Kiev in midweek, playing Owen up front alongside Ronaldo and dropping Raul back on to the left side of midfield. The gamble had paid off after just eight minutes, but it did not come without considerable help from opponents Valencia.

Claudio Ranieri's side were still licking their wounds after their 5-1 mauling at the hands of a rampant Internazionale in midweek and handed the initiative to Real from the start. The former Chelsea coach, who was already missing his influential winger Vicente and defensive rock Roberto Ayala through injury, opted for ultra-conservative tactics for the trip to the Bernabeu and left the mercurial Argentinian playmaker Pablo Aimar on the bench.

Without him the Ches lacked any sort of imagination in attack and failed to threaten the Real goal until nearly half an hour into the match, while their notoriously rugged midfield appeared to have lost all confidence after being torn apart by Inter's Brazilian striker Adriano on Wednesday.

Real were in complete control in the first half, but failed to press home their advantage as Ronaldo and the self-consumed Luis Figo missed several good scoring chances.

The appearance of Aimar after the break gave Valencia a new lease of life and Garcia Remon reacted quickly by strengthening his midfield, bringing on the underrated Santiago Solari to replace Owen. But Real flagged badly as the second half wore on.

Zidane, who was playing in the centre of midfield alongside Guti in the absence of the injured David Beckham, ran out of steam with 15 minutes to go and if Valencia had been more alert they would have been able to salvage at least a point instead of slipping to their second league defeat in a row.

Despite Real's embarrassment of riches up front, they have yet to score more than a single goal in any league match this season, with all four of their victories finishing 1-0. This week Garcia Remon's risky strategy of playing three of his four strikers from the start paid off, but even he realises that it is not a long-term solution to the side's problems.

"It's difficult to make all the pieces of the puzzle fit together," he admitted after the game. "We all know that Owen is a great player and has needed time to settle. He's earned us two victories this week and worked really hard in both games, but we are just going to have to use him when we need him."

Real Madrid: (4-4-2) Casillas; Salgado, Helguera, Samuel, Roberto Carlos; Figo (Celades, 85), Guti, Zidane, Raul; Ronaldo (Morientes, 80), Owen (Solari, 59).

Valencia: (4-4-2) Canizares; Curro Torres, Navarro, Marchena, Carboni; Rufete (Fiore, 46), Albelda, Baraja, Sissoko (Aimar, 46); Angulo, Di Vaio (Mista, 69).

Referee: P Lasa.

Attendance: 78,000.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Inner sanctum: Tove Jansson and friends in her studio in 1992
booksWhat was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Arts and Entertainment
Singer songwriter Bob Dylan performs on stage
films
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years - but he says it wasn’t all fun and games
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman, Peter Capaldi and Nick Frost star in the Doctor Who Christmas Special, Last Christmas
TV
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital
In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran