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.

Sport
Mourinho lost his temper as well as the match
sportLiverpool handed title boost as Sunderland smash manager’s 77-game home league run
Voices
Sweet tweet: Victoria Beckham’s selfie, taken on her 40th birthday on Thursday
voices... and her career-long attack on the absurd criteria by which we define our 'betters', by Ellen E Jones
Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Voices
Clock off: France has had a 35‑hour working week since 1999
voicesThere's no truth to a law banning work emails after 6pm, but that didn’t stop media hysteria
Arts & Entertainment
Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones now
tvMajor roles that grow with their child actors are helping them to steal the show on TV
Life & Style
Lana Del Rey, Alexa Chung and Cara Delevingne each carry their signature bag
fashionMulberry's decision to go for the super-rich backfired dramatically
Arts & Entertainment
Kingdom Tower
architecture
Life & Style
Sampling wine in Turin
food + drink...and abstaining may be worse than drinking too much, says scientist
Arts & Entertainment
Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin has been working on the novels since the mid-Nineties
books
News
Easter a dangerous time for dogs
these are the new ones. Old ones are below them... news
News
Brand said he
people
Voices
Actor Zac Efron
voicesTopless men? It's as bad as Page 3, says Howard Jacobson
Sport
Roger Federer celebrates his victory over Novak Djokovic in the Monte Carlo Masters
sport
Arts & Entertainment
The monster rears its head as it roars into the sky
film
Voices
For the Love of God (2007) The diamond-encrusted skull that divided the art world failed to sell for
its $100m asking price. It was eventually bought by a consortium
which included the artist himself.
voicesYou can shove it, Mr Webb – I'll be having fun until the day I die, says Janet Street-Porter
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit