Robben gives Ramos the perfect start

Real Madrid 1 Valencia 0
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The Independent Online

As a match between two teams chasing Barcelona's coattails it was a close affair, as a battle between two former Chelsea team-mates it was a no-contest. Arjen Robben turned Asier del Horno inside out to inspire Real Madrid's first win in three games and a victorious home La Liga start for Juande Ramos.

It was a case of Robben, 24 going on 34, grimacing out of every late challenge, only one foul away from another injury lay-off against Del Horno, a serial flop since he left Athletic Bilbao for Chelsea and always one late challenge away from another booking.

Robben just looks older than he is, Del Horno plays older than he is. The closest he got to Robben was when he stamped on his ankle midway through the first half to pick up a yellow card. The runaround ended on 62 minutes when he was substituted.

For Robben there was a rare full 90 minutes, a fine assist for the goal and the recognition that he had been the best player on the pitch, if at times a little wasteful with his final pass. The player they call the glass man because of his tendency to crack on contact, is fit and loving life under Juande.

The two are made for each other – Ramos built his Seville success on fast wing play and Robben admitted: "The sensations are good with the new coach – he is very clear with the way he wants the game to be played."

Despite the league win Real's focus remains on the Champions League and Robben admitted the draw had not been kind, pairing them with Rafa Benitez's Liverpool. He said: "I would have preferred to have drawn Manchester United. Benitez's teams are very good in these tournaments – they are a great cup side and because they are going so well in the League they will be even more dangerous."

Real have reached a deal with Portsmouth's Lassana Diarra, who has signed a contract until 2013 and who will undergo a medical at the Bernabeu today. For now Real can at least go into the mid-winter break on a high.

Robben brilliantly tricked his way into the box past Del Horno and Carlos Marchena before setting up Gonzalo Higuaí*to score after just three minutes. The Dutchman almost beat Renan at his near post moments later.

The Robben show continued in the second half as Valencia had Marchena sent off and were run ragged on the counter-attack.

Real Madrid (4-4-1-1): Casillas; Salgado, Metzelder, Cannavaro, Marcelo (Torres 71); Robben, Guti, Gago, Drenthe (Raul 46); Van der Vaart (Palanca 55); Higuaín. Substitutes not used: Dudek, García, Bueno, Saviola.

Valencia (4-3-3): Renan; Miguel, Marchena, Albiol; Del Horno (Maduro 62), Albelda, Fernandez; Baraja (Silva 61), Mata (Vicente 74), Villa, Joaquin. Substitutes not used:

Guaita, Morientes, Zigic, Michel.

Referee: R Domínguez.

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