Sunday, September 16, 2018

Valencia CF 0-0 Real Betis Match Report

Valencia CF continues its streak of draws and losses as the team is unable to find a victory even in its 4th match of the season, something which would come as a shock to everyone, considering we have an amazing squad on paper, in fact even improved over last season and with more depth.

The few losses we've had have been covered by replacements who should do at the very least the same as the previous players. Unfortunately what's on paper doesn't necessarily translate in practice and this has been the case for Valencia CF.

Last season Simone Zaza and Rodrigo Moreno worked extremely well, they played off of each other and Zaza took the brunt of the opposition defenders on to him due to his physicality, allowing Rodrigo to be freer and have more opportunities. This season Rodrigo Moreno doesn't have such partner, with Mina being a lot smaller and technical, while Gameiro is not a physical player either, so we are left with strikers who have pretty much the same profile. Michy is a physical player and has the build to feature like Zaza was, but he hasn't been given the opportunity yet.

Marcelino also hasn't decided on who to be the starter on the left wing, with him changing it up often, so there is no consistency in the squad and players have been unable to gel together as much as they could have. Last season it was all set, we had pretty much the same starting 10 people, with the more frequent changes in defense with Murillo, Paulista and Garay changing often and rotating. Other than that its been the same 10 man squad and that allowed them to gel really fast and produce results.

This season we've also had a slower integration, as some players arrived late in the transfer season, primarily Goncalo Guedes and we saw when he came in against Betis how much we've missed a player of his caliber. He was far and beyond the most dangerous player on the pitch and caused all sorts of trouble for Real Betis. We've missed that type of chaotic threat. Ferran is still young and inconsistent, Cheryshev is not a flair player, he is rudimentary and solid overall, but doesn't provide that spark.

To me its clear what the issue is, we've not had the best team balance and composition, we need to start Moreno, Michy in the attack, Soler, Parejo, Kondogbia and Guedes in midfield and Garay and whoever in defense. Gaya has been good, the others in defense have been a mixed bag, there needs to be more consistency from whoever is starting in the back.

I think michy and Rodrigo can play off of each other more, Michy will force more defenders on to him with his physicality and dribbling ability, leaving Moreno more space to get better opportunities. We need Guedes on the wing to provide that chaotic threat, bring in some flair to an otherwise straightforward midfield, Soler on the opposite wing to bring in the hard work ethics and provide help in the central midfield as well, Parejo needs to step up his game, while we should hope Kondogbia gets well soon and stays healthy and fit. We need him at his best.

I wasn't impressed with last nights match against Real Betis, we didn't have any sort of serious threats on their goal, some of the bigger threats came in the second half and we caused more trouble for them when Goncalo Guedes came on, otherwise they were sitting stable in defense with no major issues and were comfortable with our ineffective attacks against them. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Nacho Gil and the international break

Valencia announced this week that Nacho Gil will join Elche on loan for the remainder of the season, however the transfer cannot go through until the transfer window opens again on 1 January. Gil has had a bit of a disappointing time at Valencia. He did well for the reserve teams, thought he deserved better, and submitted a transfer request (with Villarreal interested) in January 2017, which the club refused. Voro brought him on as a sub in a couple of games the following month, before dropping him. Marcelino brought him back into the set-up for a few Copa del Rey games and he also started on the left in the league away to Eibar and Las Palmas, before being loaned out to the latter. His time at LP was also a disappointment and he clearly hasn't made the grade at Valencia, so a loan with a view to moving him on permanently, seems to be the best option.

During the international break, Valencia took whatever players were not on international duty to Alcoyano for a friendly, winning 3-0 (highlights here.) Gameiro and Mina both did well and scored the first two goals but the best player was Ferran Torres, playing from the left, who capped off a great performance with a super goal.

The international break was a good one overall for Valencia players. Batshuayi scored twice for Belgium, Cheryshev scored for Russia in Turkey and for Spain, Rodrigo featured in both Nations league games and took full advantage of Costa's absence. Against England he provided an assist for the equaliser before scoring what turned out to be the winner and was widely praised for his performance, with some even naming him man of the match. Against Croatia he was overshadowed by a quality performance from Asensio, but still managed to slot home in a 6-0 rout. The other good thing in that game was at left back


with Gaya finally making his debut. He justified his selection with a solid performance, covering well in defence and contributing several quality crosses. He wasn''t the only debutant, Neto made his first appearance for Brazil, playing the full 90 minutes and keeping a clean sheet in a 5-0 win over El Salvador in the USA. Murillo also played all 90 minutes of a friendly for Colombia. Guedes was maybe the one who could be disappointed, as he was an unused sub in both Portugal games, but as he hasn't played a competitive match yet this season, it's understandable.

Valencia have a tough and critical week coming up. (Tough month actually.) First we welcome Betis to Mestalla on Saturday before opening up our Champions league campaign against Juventus, then finally going to Villarreal. Our start so far has been weak, but not disastrous: the results against Atletico and Levante were the same as we got last season, with the concern centring on the Espanyol defeat. However, we are only 2 points behind rivals like Sevilla, Betis, Bilbao and Sociedad and ahead of Villarreal, so can quickly make up ground if we start winning. So no need to panic yet, but if we do not get a win against Betis, alarm bells will start to ring. While they've made a few good additions in the summer, they remain weak at the back and Quique Setien's gung-ho approach is ideal for our counter attacking style, which is why we put 8 past them last season, so I expect a win.






Sunday, September 2, 2018

La Liga Matchday #3 | Levante UD 2-2 Valencia CF | Match Report

Valencia CF are still without a win this La Liga season, managing only 2 points from 9 in the first three games. With the amount of money spent, this is surprising and disappointing, especially in the previous game and this one where we really should've been the dominant side. However, with the performances displayed, it really isn't surprising. This was another sloppy performance, no matter which way you look at it. And no, we can't use Guedes not playing as an excuse. One player can't solve everything. Some problems in attack and breaking down defenses might be addressed but poor finishing, defensive positioning, communication, defending and passing cannot be solved.

LINEUP


Usual formation but with a change in lineup. We all expected a change in defense after recent poor performances but oddly that was the only part, other than the goalkeeper, which remained unchanged. I don't know what the issue is with Murillo being sidelined but it's a bit concerning if it is the case. In midfield with Kondogbia feeling some discomfort, Wass slotted in next to Parejo in midfield. I was a bit concerned seeing the team sheet with two attack minded midfield players. But with Coquelin injured and Racic relegated to the B team, Wass or Soler were the only options. Soler did make the lineup again on the right with Cheryshev filling in on the left where Wass played in previous games. Guedes was not deemed ready/fit yet so he was left out of the lineup completely. Santi Mina was replaced with Gameiro after not making an impact in previous games. Rodrigo completed the attack.

MATCH

The game didn't begin in a promising way. Lots of poor passes and as a result lots of lost possession from both sides. Not the focus and mentality I expected in a game where we needed a win. 

What happened at the 13th minute mark was shocking and embarrassing. I think it was a culmination of almost everything that has failed in recent performances. Parejo loses possession in midfield with a misplaced pass. Morales claims possession and knocks it past Wass who had slide in to tackle. Parejo tries the same but Morales leaves him in the dust as well. Diakhaby comes in and decides to repeat the same sliding challenge for a third time, but with the same result. Morales carries the ball forward with some pressure from Soler who had barely managed to catch up but was shrugged off as well. At this point it was Paulista and Gaya against Morales, Roger and Boateng. Gaya left his man and slid into a challenge on Morales who laid the ball off for Boateng on the left with Soler nearby just watching. Paulista just stood in the center screaming with his arms up at the linesman, presumably claiming offside. Boateng shoots and Neto saves, and it seemed like danger was averted, only he let the ball go. Straight into the path of Roger who couldn't miss from there. Piccini had barely made an effort to run back as well. 7 players and a goalkeeper versus 3 players on the break and they still manage a way through. I just couldn't believe it.

After three minutes of despair, thinking about how awful that play was from our end, some relief came in the form of a Valencia goal. It was a pretty simple progression, Wass played the ball out from the back with a ground pass to Rodrigo who picked out Soler out wide on the right. Soler then spotted out the run of Cheryshev into the space between the two defenders, delivered a cross and Cheryshev connected well and headed the ball into the net. Solid goal for it's simplicity but done with great execution from Soler and Cheryshev. It was much needed and a great way to respond.

Three minutes later still, Gaya who cut inside from an advanced position on the left to find a great run from Rodrigo with a great cross, only it was just out of reach and an almost certain goal had there been a connection. 

Valencia would produce another great chance via Gaya again in the 25 minute. Gaya had made his way forward again, played Cheryshev through to the goal line where he would cut the ball back to Gamerio in space. The ball was slightly behind Gameiro and he fumbled the effort. I think he should've scored it still especially with his experience and finishing ability. 

Levante would respond with a cross from the right by Roger to the center where it was headed away by Paulista, straight to Morales on the left side. He would have the time and space, under little pressure or effort from Piccini, to produce a good shot and Valencia would be saved by the crossbar. Just before half time, Neto would manage to save a free kick on target from distance.

Levante would come again 5 minutes later, now having gained the momentum. A diagonal ball from the right from Bardhi was played across to Roger who made a run in between Piccini and Paulista. They both tried to close him down but he slipped through them with minimal effort, looked up and found Neto in an advanced position of his line needlessly. He somehow got a shot across goal to the opposite side with little power but the accuracy was all that mattered. Horrible defending and keeping again.

Into the second half break where Marcelino had some time to address some issues and attempt to still win the game. He refrained from making substitutions at this point. 

Only a minute into the second half, Boateng made a run out wide on the right and Diakhaby went out to pressure him, the former left him in the dust on the ground and made a run along the goal line, sent the ball into the box only to be saved by Neto.

Six minutes later, the same combo that produced our first goal would strike again. Cheryshev would cross the ball into the box from the left, finding no Valencia players. The Levante defender would try to collect the ball for a simple clean up, only he didn't see the charging run of Soler who would get in ahead of him and claim possession. The defender panics and fouls him, conceding a penalty which Parejo converts easily. 2-2.

Approaching the 60 minute mark, Cheryshev would find himself in possession out on the left again, delivers a great cross finding Gamerio in a great position ahead of a sea of Levante players, the latter would make contact but the ball hits the post. Great positioning, great cross but the finishing is off again. Five minutes later, the same combination, Cheryshev and Gamerio, with the same play, a cross from the left, only for Gamiero's header to find the post again. It just wasn't his day. All the right positioning and runs but not the finishing.

Marcelino would resort to the substitutions now, taking off both players involved in the last play. Batshuyai came on for Gameiro, while Ferran Torres replaced Cheryshev. 

Ferran Torres would have an almost instant impact. Just five minutes after coming on, he taken on two Levante defenders out wide on the left, slips through between both of them with some trickery but gets taken out to avert danger. Coke, who had taken him out had already been booked and would find himself picking up a second one and getting sent off. Valencia would have 14 minutes to play with an extra man advantage to find a win. 

Marcelino, now with an advantage, brings on Santi Mina for Soler, to add more fire power. Santi Mina would score very soon after coming on only to be ruled offside. 

Finally, Rodrigo would get one of the best chances of the game after Ferran Torres picks him out in space at the far post, only for Rodrigo to miss the ball completely. He really had to score there. 

Even with five minutes of added time, the victory would still elude Valencia despite the abundances of great chances.

GOALS

1-0 Roger (13')
1-1 Cheryshev (16')
2-1 Roger (33')
2-2 Parejo, pen. (52') 

PLAYER RATINGS

Neto 1 - Mistakes like what happened with the first goal has become a more frequent occurrence and should never happen. Awful positioning for the second goal. Made one good save from a free kick.
Piccini 1 - A defensive liability. It's not just the quality of the defending, he simply makes no effort to close down or track back when possession is lost. Nowhere is sight for the first goal, completely sloppy on the second.
Diakhaby 1.5 - Was exposed far too many times. One time resulted in the first goal, the others managed to escape free of consequence.
Paulista 1 - It's really not a good sign when an experienced defender just stands around screaming and waving his arms at the linesman and doesn't act at all. That was him for the first goal. Failed to accomplish anything in stopping the second goal.
Gaya 5 - provided some dangerous attacking play that resulted in a chance for Rodrigo who couldn't reach it and the other for Gameiro who hit the post.
Wass 3 - his distribution, passing and playing the ball out from the back are all good in this position but he didn't seem to have the defensive ability that a CDM would provide.  
Parejo 3.5 - poor challenge and lost possession that lead to the first goal. Good conversion on penalty.  
Soler 7 - great rebound game after a sub par last one. Commendable effort to make quite the run tracking back to help the defense in the first goal. Great vision and cross to pick out Cheryshev for our first goal. Great work ethic again in claiming the ball ahead of the Levante defender and drawing in the foul for the equalizing penalty.
Cheryshev 8 - amazing performance today. Had the position and technique to anticipate and connect with Soler's cross to score the first goal. He put in several more great crosses all game, one of which lead to the penalty, while the many others were dangerous but the resulting chances hit the post or were missed.
Rodrigo 4 - remained quite involved in the plays all through the game but it was disappointing to see him miss such easy chances
Gameiro 4.5 - got in all the right positions but failed to convert any of them. Could've easily scored a hat trick today with slightly better finishing. 

Subs:
Ferran Torres 6 - instant impact substitution. Gave us more than a fighting chance by dribbling past two defenders and drawing a red card foul from Coke. Proceeded to provide dangerous crosses for the remained of the game.
Batshuyai 4 - didn't really do much since coming on.
Santi Mina 4 - quick to score after coming on, only it was offside. No impact after that.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Pretty disappointing game all round. What's worrying me the most is that I am not seeing any improvements. We have the squad to compete but we're doing anything but that. That implies to be that the errors are not being spotted (unlikely since they're obvious), the players aren't responding to the criticism for one reason or the other, the changes need time, or there is a lack of belief. 

I said in the introduction that Guedes can't solve everything and I stand by that. But what he can do is spark some renewed energy into the team. But the defense needs work. Major work. I don't recall ever having to give such low ratings all round in defense. And the fact that we have two ready and able defenders just sitting on the sidelines and not being tried is worrying. If Marcelino trusts these two over the other ones and these ones are performing this poorly, how bad must the other two be?

That being said, the offense has some rays of hope. Soler and Cheryshev put in a great effort and together rescued the team from a loss by setting up the two goals, both after having fallen back by one. Ferran Torres had a promising appearance off this bench, while both Gameiro and Rodrigo were on the verge of a goal fest albeit the finishing let them down.

Hopefully, getting Kondogbia back and a Guedes return in the second game can do something for the confidence of the players at the very least. Both our next matches are at home so that should further instill some belief and confidence. The good thing is we have a lot of time to fix things. Our next competitive match is on the 15th at home to Betis and the following is the first Champions League group stage game, also at home, against a tough Juventus side. In addition, our next game is a friendly on September 5th, against Segunda B side CD Alcoyana at 20:30 CEST (14:30 EDT), so we have a great chance to test out some changes and maybe give some players a run out into fitness. That being said, it is also the international break, until our next La Liga game, so only those not called up will be available to Marcelino.


As usual, let everyone know your ideas, thoughts and comments about the game in the comments below. What's the issue with the defense? Who impressed? Who disappointed?

Levante vs Valencia CF Match Preview

Valencia CF start to the season hit a bump last week after a surprising and disappointing loss against RCD Espanyol, a team which Valencia CF has historically had little trouble disposing off most of the times.

The first match at home with Atletico Madrid was a positive draw against a very strong opponent who just beat Real Madrid 4-2 in the Super Cup, so expectations were high for the next match and for the season, but all that came crashing down against a solid and tight Espanyol side. Truth be told Espanyol didn't have too many chances and most of their goals came from individual mistakes in our defense, but Valencia forwards on the other hand wasted too many opportunities, which if converted could have changed the course of the match.

Last match is history now though and Valencia CF will be looking to correct the course with a win against rivals Levante. Even though they are a regional rival and always provide good opposition to Valencia CF, we've had good results against them overall.

Another good piece of information is that Valencia CF signed Goncalo Guedes from PSG after a long and drawn out saga, but we got the player and he signed a 6 year deal with Valencia CF with no buy-back options for PSG, with the player release clause set at 300 million euros. Even though this is a big signing for Valencia CF that makes Guedes the most expensive player in VCF history, the player will unfortunately not feature for Valencia CF in today's match against Levante as he trained separately from the rest of the PSG squad all summer long, while only training twice with Valencia CF once joining, so he was left out of the squad.

After the last showing I'm sure Marcelino will make few changes to the team, I believe that Murillo might get his first start this season, I think Piccini will still get the nod over Vezo, though any costly mistake against Levante and he will be dropped from the starting line-up. Kondogbia is injured and thus out of the squad, so that will probably feature Soler in central midfield, with Cheryshev on the left wing, Wass on the right wing and I think Santi Mina will be dropped in favor of Kevin Gameiro. Santi Mina has showed little in the two matches he's started, he did provide a good chance to Moreno last match, but has missed some shots himself and has gone missing for large parts of the last two matches.

Today's match is one of the most exciting ones in a while, since we really have no clue what is Valencia's level after two games, while Levante has been a tough cookie to crack often time, so its going to be really interesting to see how the team does, especially since Kondogbia is missing through injury, so a bit of a shakeup expected in the starting lineup. I hope Valencia CF wins and wins so easily, but in reality my head tells me that its going to be a very tough match and one that we would be very happy to win as a draw seems more likely and in line. 

Thursday, August 30, 2018

UEFA Champions league draw

So now we know our opponents: Juventus, Manchester United and Young Boys Berne.



A tough group, Juventus will be the favourites and Young Boys the underdogs. Our most likely route to qualification involves taking 6 points off the Swiss and hoping that Man United continue their malaise such that we take points off them.

Interestingly, Valencia have never faced either Young Boys or Juventus in Europe before. We have faced Manchester Utd on 4 occasions before. We beat them in the 1982/83 UEFA Cup first round. We then faced them in the Champions league 3 times. In 1999/2000 we drew 0-0 at Mestalla and lost 0-3 away in the second group stage. The following year two draws against them in the second group stage. The most recent occasion in 2010/11 we lost 0-1 at Mestalla and were leading at Old Trafford until they equalised late in the game.

Fixture dates and times are

1. Valencia - Juventus (19.september) 21.00
2. Manchester United - Valencia (2.october) 21.00
3. Young Boys - Valencia (23.october) 19.00
4. Valencia - Young Boys (7.november) 19.00
5. Juventus - Valencia (27.november) 21.00
6. Valencia - Manchester United (12.december) 21.00

A tough enough start, we really need to take some points from the first two, then go into the double header vs Young Boys in the middle and take 6 points.

Lastly, Guedes' contract was confirmed earlier by the club. He signs until 2024 with a release clause of 300 million euro (!) The release clause is monster, I'd heard 175m talked about so this figure is obviously good as it shows again that the club is willing to protect its assets. If he has a great season and the predators appear we can wave them away or make them pay a suitable 9-figure sum.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Valencia sign Ricardo Campos / more on Guedes

Another addition to the ranks today. Valencia have added Ricardo Campos from Juventus under 19s.


He joins on loan for a season, with Valencia having the option to make it permanent for around a million euros. Campos is 18 years old and can play across the front line, but mostly plays as a right winger and occasionally as a second striker. He was a Benfica youth product before Pablo Longoria brought him to Italy in 2016. He enjoyed a great first season, scoring 10 goals in 20 appearances for Juve U-17, but spent most of last season on the bench. However, Longoria obviously judges him worth a second look and he'll likely be assigned to Valencia Mestalla for assessment and, with Soler, Ferran and Wass covering the right wing spot, will probably be limited to Copa del Rey appearances for the first team, if at all.

Further on Guedes, sources now say he will join on loan for the season, with Valencia then having an obligatory buy clause of 40 million, with a further 10 million in "achievable" add-ons and 7 million in "difficult to achieve" add-ons. Presumably the achievable add-ons will cover things like goals scored, appearances, maybe Valencia qualifying for Champions league etc and the difficult ones will possibly be similar to those of Andre Gomes' sale to FCB: winning La Liga, reaching Champs league semis, nominated for Balon D'or etc. (I'm speculating, since sources don't clarify what they are.) PSG don't have a buy back option as the player himself was adamant he didn't want this and he had burnt his bridges there anyway by refusing more lucrative offers from England. There's also been no mention in sources of PSG getting any % of a future deal.

Amid the euphoria, there have been some Valencia fans questioning the deal, based on Valencia's poor financial situation and the fact he faded in the second half of the season and had a disappointing world cup. With Valencia's net transfer spending in this window the 10th highest, it does put considerable pressure on the club to achieve top 4, as otherwise we're in for another "summer of 16" (Gomes, Mustafi and Alcacer sold) where we'll be selling at least 2 key players, and probably more, to balance the books.

Valencia have also announced they'll play a friendly on 5 September against Alcoyano of Segunda B. That's the day of the international break, so it will effectively function as a training match for those not on international duty. Lastly, Dynamo Kyiv overcoming a 3-1 deficit against Ajax tonight will provide Valencia with 1.108 million in Champs league prize money.


Monday, August 27, 2018

Valencia sign Guedes

The long saga is finally over. Valencia confirmed this evening that agreement has been reached to sign Guedes.


He will travel to Valencia tomorrow to sign his contract. Full details of the transfer are not yet available, sources suggest 40 million euros plus 10 million more in unspecified performance related add-ons, but whichever it is, it will easily be the most expensive transfer in Valencia's history, far exceeding the 30 million we paid for Rodrigo 4 years ago. This has been dragging on for months, Valencia have been trying to sign the player since October last year and he was linked with several other clubs, with Arsenal the most closely linked, but the player repeatedly made it clear that he only wanted to play for Valencia. The determination on both the part of Valencia and the player overcame PSG's high demands.

Assuming there are no late shocks, like the exit of Rodrigo or another senior player I think this has been a really good transfer window. Just keeping Kondogbia and Guedes would have been a coup in itself but we added other players and it's now up to those players to overcome the Espanyol disappointment and prove the worth in the tough set of games in the 6 weeks ahead.

I'll update this post when more details of the Guedes transfer become available.

La Liga Matchday #2 | RCD Espanyol 2-0 Valencia CF | Match Report

A disappointing away game after a promising start to the season. Valencia came into the game on the back of a great opener against a tough and well-drilled Atletico Madrid team where a 1-1 draw was less than what they deserved with the number of chances created. Espanyol also came into the game with a 1-1 draw away to Celta Vigo. We were the favorites to win on paper but it didn't matter in the midst of many mistakes committed, especially in defense. The mistakes were punished and we truly didn't deserve a win today.

LINEUP


Nothing new in terms of formation, still and probably always will be 4-4-2. The lineup remained unchanged from last game minus Garay who is sidelined due to injury with Diakhaby favored as the replacement by Marcelino. According to Superdeporte, Marcelino finds him really promising and is impressed with him. This is already starting a bit of debate with regards to the CB position. It's good we have 5 to choose from to maintain competition. 

MATCH

The first ten minutes of the first half featured very quick and aggressive pressing from both sides. Any possession was quickly close down and some fouls were made. 

On the verge of 10 minutes, the Valencia half chances would come in. Wass heads a long ball coming from midfield towards Rodrigo in the box who broke free from his defender but couldn't make contact with the ball as it was too far ahead. Two minutes later, it would be Gaya making a forward run and finding Rodrigo with a cross and the latter made contact with a header but it wasn't enough to beat Diego Lopez. A few seconds later Santi Mina, would try a wild effort from range but would miss the target.

The 17th minute saw the first real chance at goal for Valencia. Piccini would play a nice through ball into Soler's run. The latter would then dribble past an Espanyol player to the goal line and pull the ball back for Santi Mina whose shot was blocked by a defender, more specifically the defender's arms. This sent the players and Marcelino in hysteria and demands of a VAR check. The VAR officials dismissed the claims in a minute or so much to the dislike of the players. At first glance, the distance between the player's hands and the ball was too small to get out of the way and it was a case of ball to hand rather than hand to ball. However, the last factor is intent and I believe it was totally intentional. There is no way anyone tries to block that shot with their head. The player wanted to get his body in front of the ball and he didn't care whether it was his arms or not. My biased opinion is a penalty for intent, the ball was going into the net had he not done it, but it is what it is.\

Espanyol's first threat would come on the stroke of 32 minutes when Javi Lopez crossed the ball from the right into the box to find Sergio Garcia who would send a strong header towards the goal, only to be denied by the crossbar. The rebound would fall to Iglesias who would send another header towards goal but the shot was cleared off the line by a reflex save from Neto. Espanyol players insisted the ball crossed the line but VAR would quickly and correctly dismiss the claims. Great save by Neto, but static defending by Paulista who just let his man go for the first header. Piccini was also a tad bit slow and his positioning in question. A minute later, Espanyol would sent a volley from range to be again denied by Neto.

Valencia would respond in kind with a wonderful chance. Gaya found himself in a deep position in midfield and found Rodrigo who played a brilliant through ball for Santi Mina to the left of goal while the former made his way into the box in anticipation of a return ball. The return would come only for Rodrigo to fire straight at the keeper from point-blank range. Disappointing finish to a great move. Chances like that need to be taken. 

Into the second half, 50 minutes into the game, a half-chance from a Diakhaby back-heel via a Parejo corner was cleared off the line by an Espanyol defender. The counter attack resulting for the clearance saved in turn by Neto.

Valencia would fall apart in the 60-70 minute time period. An Espanyol player moved out of the way of a teammate's shot only to expose Diakhaby to the shot. He parried the ball with his forearm and conceded a free-kick as a result. The kick was taken by Granero and was unstoppable to the right of Neto, off the cross bar and just in. Nothing that can be done to save that. 

Marcelino would bring on Cheryshev for Wass and Gamerio for Santi Mina, who had faded from the game in the second half. Later, Piccini would get caught out of position having drifted towards the center by a long ball from the back from Espanyol, he would go to ground at the slightest contact with the attacker, only to get up again and the danger averted. A minute later, he would get caught the same way, out of position again, he would attempt a sloppy clearance only for Baptistao to get a free run on goal. Paulista and Diakhaby both frozen, one former claiming offside the other just static. The shot would be saved by Neto only for the Iglesias to capitalize on the sloppy defending and react first to bury the ball in the net. Atrocious defending by 3 of the four players.

Marcelino would attempt to change the game by using his final substitution, Batshuyai for Rodrigo but to no avail, the lead was too great and we didn't create very convincing chances. 


GOALS

1-0 Granero (62')
2-0 Iglesias (68')

PLAYER RATINGS

Neto 8 - great job today. A quick reflex save in the first half, with a few other easier saves, could do nothing about the free kick and another great save to deny the first attempt from Baptistao only for the defense to let Iglesias have a free shot on goal for the second goal.
Piccini 1 - disaster all night and atypical of him, he can do much better. Lost possession way too many times on the way forward, got caught twice in the same fashion out of position, the first time he got away with it and was severely punished the second time only a few minutes later.
Diakhaby 3 - I'm on the fence about him. At times I see a quick yet strong defender who cleans up well with great tackling ability, at other times I see him get distracted and loses concentration as with the second goal leaving his man go free. Had a decent effort on goal with a back-heel. 
Paulista 3 - The more experience of the two central defenders but got caught up claiming offside and let Iglesias go free. He probably expected Diakhaby to cover but I think he could've reacted quicker. 
Gaya 6 - did well going forward, getting some dangerous crosses in, especially the one for Rodrigo but it couldn't be converted. 
Kondogbia 7.5 - strong presence in midfield to make key interceptions and tackles. I still feel the attacking aspect of his game that we saw last season is missing.
Parejo 6 - decent performance, especially compared to his prior game where he was brilliant. The passing work was good, the defensive work ethic not so much.
Soler 4 - Second game in a row where he doesn't look too sharp. The passing was sloppy and the shots were just as bad. Might need some time on the bench to motivate him.
Wass 5 - balanced offensive and defensive display. Not as big a threat as he was last game but caused some trouble here and there. 
Rodrigo 6 - when you get a chance that good from the Santi Mina pull back, you need to convert especially at that range and at this level. Caused plenty of trouble with his runs, passing and dribbles but nothing tangible to show for it.
Santi Mina 5 - very involved in the first half of the game and even set up a wonderful chance for Rodrigo, faded away in the second half.

Subs:
Cheryshev 5 - maybe should've been brought on earlier and for Soler rather than Wass.
Gamerio 5 - created 1 or 2 decent chances, but nothing to show for it 
Batshuyai N/A

FINAL THOUGHTS

It's a shame we couldn't get the win. Away games are usually a struggle but the defending was the Achilles heel today. It was simply atrocious. Also, we are really lacking a player than can take on defenders and beat them or at least pull them away to create space for others. That's where Guedes fits in. However, having Guedes or someone similar won't fix the defensive problems. I expect to see Murillo in the next game after these two games of experimenting. This was the worst I have seen Piccini at, he seemed to have lost all focus, losing possession, caught out of position in quick succession and sloppy clearances and I saw Marcelino yell at him at least once. I have no doubt Marcelino will address this because it was clear for everyone to see the defense was terrible. On the other end of the field, Rodrigo was less clinical today and should've really scored that one chance. With all these mistakes, I don't think the claim for the penalty that I mentioned in the beginning would be a valid excuse or save the team from criticism.

Next week Sunday, is another away game and a derby at that, against Levante. We simply need a win. We need the confidence boost of having a first win in the season. Although Levante would be the least challenging opponent so far, on paper, we can't take any chances and it IS still a derby so it should motivate the players and a win would do well for the confidence. 

Finally, the transfer window closing date and Champions League group stage draw are this week, Friday. So stay tuned for any new transfers as well as our group stage opponents.

As usual, let everyone know your ideas, thoughts and comments about the game in the comments below. Was the VAR correct to not give a penalty for Santi Mina's blocked effort? How should we lineup in defense? Who impressed? Who disappointed?