Valencia 0 Real Madrid 0: Real decline continues with Ronaldo failing late test of fragile confidence

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The Independent Online

The farcical decline of the world's richest football club and their famous Brazilian No 9 continued on Saturday when Real Madrid followed their midweek goalless draw at Highbury with a stalemate in Valencia and Ronaldo missed a last-minute penalty.

Without David Beckham, who was sidelined with a groin problem, Real went into the game in desperate need of a win to keep the pressure on the league leaders Barcelona. But their expensive ensemble of international strikers failed miserably to hit the target - Ronaldo firing the biggest blank of the night from the spot on 89 minutes.

The Brazilian had been dropped after his dismal showing in London but his replacement, Raul, was equally as ineffective at centre-forward. On the hour his number came up and Ronaldo replaced him.

He had his chance to win the game in the last minute when he was brought down by the Valencia goalkeeper Santiago Canizares. But his weak spot-kick was easily saved. "It was a very poor penalty," he admitted. "Things aren't going well."

It could have been even worse for Real when Sergio Ramos decided to catch the ball in his own penalty area, only to be outdone in the incompetence stakes by the referee Manuel Mejuto Gonzalez who did not award a spot-kick.

Alvaro Mejia had clashed with David Villa on the edge of the box and Ramos claimed that he had heard the referee whistle for a foul. He caught the ball when it came to him only to have it snatched away from him by the goalkeeper Iker Casillas.

The referee did then blow his whistle but, instead of pointing to the spot as the capacity 50,000 crowd expected, ran to consult his linesman and awarded a free-kick against Valencia for the original challenge between Villa and Mejia.

"I heard a whistle from somewhere," said Ramos. "So I grabbed the ball to take the free-kick as quickly as possible. That's when Iker snatched it away from me saying: 'Are you crazy, or what?' Thank God, the referee did not give a penalty."

Valencia (4-2-3-1): Canizares; Miguel, Marchena, Albiol, Moretti; Abelda, Baraja; Angulo (Rufete, 64) Aimar (F Aurelio, 79), Regueiro (Mista, 67); Villa.

Real Madrid (4-2-3-1): Casillas; Salgado, Sergio Ramos, Mejia, Raul Bravo; Diogo, Guti; Cicinho, Baptista (Casano, 77), Zidane (Robinho, 74); Raul (Ronaldo, 62).

Referee: M Mejuto Gonzalez.

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