| Valencia’s David Navarro (right) vies for the ball with Real’s Ronaldo during their Spanish League match in Valencia on Saturday. (AFP)
Madrid: Valencia took advantage of a woeful Real Madrid performance to claim a 2-0 win at home against the defending Spanish champions on Saturday and replace Deportivo Coruna at the top of the table.
Deportivo’s surprise 2-3 defeat at Osasuna handed Valencia the chance to lead the Primera Liga standings and they took it in style, sending Real to their first league defeat of the season. Rafa Benitez’s side went ahead after four minutes through Mista, and a Ricardo Oliveira strike in the second half clinched a surprisingly comfortable win.
The result was enough to give Valencia the lead with 13 points from five games, after Deportivo lost their 100 per cent record at Osasuna.
Deportivo blew their chance of a fifth successive victory by conceding three goals in a nightmarish four-minute spell in the first half. They dropped to second on 12 points with Real Madrid and Osasuna both on ten in third and fourth, respectively. Barcelona, with eight points from four games, could move up to third with victory away to Atletico Madrid.
Valencia, the 2002 champions, came at Real with all guns blazing and were rewarded with an early goal.
Argentine playmaker Pablo Aimar brought the ball forward from midfield and found Jorge Lopez wide on the right. He crossed low into the box and Mista, a former Real Madrid player, nipped in ahead of goalkeeper Iker Casillas to open the scoring. Aimar was at the heart of every Valencia move but was forced off after 28 minutes with a leg muscle strain.
Real failed to make any headway, with Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo and David Beckham suffering a collective off-day. Valencia were content to soak up pressure and hit Real on the break and their second goal arrived after 71 minutes, when Casillas could only block an Oliveira header.
Ruben Baraja smacked the rebound back into the box and the ball broke again for Oliveira to blast the ball home. Real hardly created a chance in what remained of the game and Valencia claimed victory with plenty to spare.
Deportivo were also guilty of a shoddy performance away to Osasuna. Patxi Punal got the home side’s first goal with a penalty on 21 minutes after Hector had needlessly brought down Moroccan midfielder Moha on a run into the box.
A mistake from Deportivo goalkeeper Jose Molina handed Osasuna their second two minutes later. Molina, stretching for a cross from the left, dropped the ball at the feet of Ibrahima Bakayoko, who tapped it across for Ivan Rosado to make the score 2-0. Within a minute, Osasuna were three up, thanks to another Deportivo mistake.
David Beckham suffered an ankle injury against Valencia and does not know if he will be fit in time for the decisive Euro 2004 qualifier against Turkey next month.
“I really don’t know,” Beckham said when asked if he would be fit for the group 7 clash on October 11. “I’m not sure if I’ll be fit for Wednesday (when Real travel to Porto for a Champions League match). It will be up to the doctors, the physios and me to decide.