Gillette Mach 3 Best Defender of the Week: Marcelo scores the winner for Real Madrid

In recent times, the biggest criticism of Marcelo is that he is often found wanting when it comes to his defensive responsibilities. Time and again, the Brazilian left back has floated up the flank but has been slow in his charge back, particularly when required to defend a counter-attack.

In the current La Liga standings, Real Madrid are level with Barcelona on points but have a game in hand.

On Saturday, they hosted Valencia at the Santiago Bernabeu, a tricky opponent, who are placed mid-table but their rich history and pedigree mean they are capable of springing an upset.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s first-half header put the Madridistas in the lead. Benzema could have doubled the lead after Marcelo cleverly cushioned a pass from the deep onto the Frenchman, who cut inside but rattled the woodwork. Ronaldo might have made it 2-0, but his penalty was saved by the goalkeeper.

By the 82nd minute, Real were dealt a mighty blow to their title hopes, when Daniel Parejo’s free-kick brought Valencia on level terms.

Panic grew within the hosts, as even the defenders started to push forward, looking for the winner.

Marcelo GFX Mach 3

But Marcelo is often said to be more comfortable going upfront than being at the back – although he has become more resolute in his defensive responsibilities in the last couple of seasons.

Ronaldo found the ball on the right flank and charged up. Surrounded, he tried to cross the ball but didn’t get the direction too well, as the ball rolled outside to the left flank.

Crucially, Marcelo was lurking nearby. He collected the ball, looking for his teammates who were positioning themselves in the box to provide options for the cross. Only, Marcelo fooled the entire lot – teammate and opponent. Faking a cross, he cut inside onto his weaker foot and bent home a ferociously low effort that evaded the diving goalkeeper.

Real were up 2-1, courtesy of Marcelo’s 86th-minute strike.

Marcelo kept his team firmly in the driver’s seat as the title race nears its completion.

"Today we dug deep into our souls and we have shown everyone who we are," Marcelo said. “I'm happy for the goal, but even more for getting the points. We remain on our feet; we will fight until the end."

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