Monday, March 20, 2017

Barcelona 4-2 Valencia

Yesterday's game was a classic example of the enigma that is Valencia. On the surface of it, conceding four goals for the fourth time this season doesn't sound good, but this wasn't like the screw-ups vs LasPalmas, Eibar or Celta in the cup. The scoreline actually hides what was one of the Valencia's better performances this season. Ultimately, we just ended up overpowered by a strong team, in part due to injuries affecting half of our front line and mainly due to playing most of the game with ten men. Yet again, though, it raises the question, why is it that we always play at a decent level against Barça and R.Madrid but then produce such dire displays as the ones we've seen in recent months against Gijon, Osasuna or Eibar?

I mentioned the injuries. Nani and Rodrigo are still out and a big shame was the absence of Mina, who scored in both games against Barça last year. Voro made only one change and it was a slightly surprising one. Zaza was dropped and, in his place, Enzo returned from suspension, with a bit of shuffling around following. Soler moved forward to where he's more effective and Munir took up the central striker role.

The first period started with a pattern that would continue for most of the game. Barcelona had most of the possession and created more chances, but Valencia did well to frustrate them and created a few chances of their own, with the best being a pullback from Cancelo which rebounded to Soler, who forced a good save from Stegen.

In the 29th minute and somewhat against the run of play, Valencia were ahead. I've criticised Alves' distribution before, but he hit a perfect punt to put Munir clear through, however, the latter scuffed his shot. Just as we were yelling at him, Mangala popped up with a great header from the resulting corner.

The lead lasted a bit over 6 minutes and the equaliser was a frustrating one. After a lot of good defence up to that point, Valencia simply switched off. The right half of the defence had been the weaker side throughout, with Montoya being tortured by an in-form Neymar and Garay struggling to keep up with Suarez. But it was a stupid goal. A quick throw-in from Neymar in behind our defence. Alves got down well to cover the space and against 99% of forwards, probably would have saved it, but when it's one of the best forwards in world football, you can't gift chances like that.

The key moment in the game then occurred. Mangala had possibly been Valencia's best player up to that point but then threw it away. First a poor, mistimed challenge on Messi earned a yellow, then he hauled back Suarez in the box. Sure, the latter made a meal of it, but overall: clear foul, clear penalty, clear card and suddenly Valencia were down to ten men and 2-1 down.

To their credit, the team didn't give up. From the kick-off, it was Barça's turn to go to sleep. Soler threaded a great pass through to Gaya and the latter in turn squared well for Munir to equalise.

Sadly, in the second half, ten men in the Nou Camp against an in-form Barcelona proved too much, but VCF did keep fighting, creating further chances for Soler and Munir and the team was still in with a shout until Andre Gomes made it 4-2 in the 89th minute. (As an aside, Barcelona winning the Champions' league this year wouldn't be the worst thing from a VCF point of view as it would gift us 5 (or 10?) million as part of his transfer deal.)

Overall, after the sending off of Mangala, it was always going to be a serious struggle for Valencia to get points from this game. The team did make a valiant effort, but that comes back to my question at the start. Why does this team so often only turn up against top clubs? Games like this are so much more frustrating than the 1-1 draws with Gijon, as they show us glimpses of what this team can do, but overall, this level of effort comes too rarely. Why can't we play this way against the Gijons, Betises, Osasunas and Eibars?

PLAYER RATINGS
Alves 6.5 - made some great stops, though should have done better for their third goal
Montoya 3.5 - night to forget, was turned inside out by Neymar.
Garay 4 - struggled to keep tabs on Suarez and ineffective overall
Mangala 5 - was having a really good game until the sending off, but cost us the game
Gaya 7 - has been back in form of late and had a good game defensively, while contributing well in attack
Enzo 5.5 - the team is better with him in it, but he was limited to a mostly defensive role
Parejo 5 - while he was better than the last game and provided the assist from the corner, he struggled to make a big impact
Orellana 4.5 - what's happened with this guy? A great few games after signing but a series of below-par performances of late including this one, where his passing was often wayward
Soler 6.5 - confident performance overall and did well in attack, though less effective in cutting out the opposition midfield
Cancelo 5.5 - had a very good first half and caused their defence real problems, but much less effective after the break and could have done more to help out Montoya in defence
Munir 6.5 - overall had a good game, though missed a couple of good opportunities. I know I'm in the minority who thinks we should buy him, but I do think he has good potential.

SUBS
Abdennour 5 - more effective than Garay after coming on and produced a competent, if unspectacular, display
Zaza 4 - limited and saw little of the ball, with Valencia under the cosh
Bakkali N/A - unable to do much in his usual late cameo














Saturday, March 11, 2017

Valencia 1-1 Sporting Gijon

Today was a golden opportunity for Valencia to earn a morale boosting win over a team which looks likely to go down, putting to bed any talk of relegation at Valencia's end. The question was, which team would turn up: the one which produced a strong battling win over Real Madrid or the one that produced such a week and limp performance against the other Madrid last weekend? Sadly, it was more of the latter, with a really disappointing performance failing to inspire more than more Peterveteya chants.

There was only one change in the team. Montoya returned from recent injuries and replaced the suspended Enzo. This resulted in a bit of reshuffling. Cancelo moved forward to where we all know he's better. Munir switched to the left wing, Orellana reverted to the centre and Soler dropped back to partner Parejo in Voro's favored double pivot.

Valencia controlled much of the early period, but without threatening a lot. The lack of coordination we saw between various sectors of the team returned. Sure, Gaya was looking his old self bombing down the wing and putting in crosses and Mangala made a couple of timely interceptions but the team as a whole wasn't acting in concert. Up front there was a lack of imagination and creativity, though both Orellana and Zaza missed clear chances in the first half, with both getting booked as well. Zaza played his tenth game, which means that he's now a Valencia player for definite, but today, though he made an effort, it was far from the standard of an 18 million player. He kept getting caught offside too easily. With neither team inspiring, the first half drew to a close.

Valencia had golden opportunities to go in front in the second period. Firstly, from an opposition corner, Orellana raced away, but, one on one with the keeper, shot just wide. Then Valencia got a penalty. As in the Osasuna game, Parejo missed. He may be a good free kick taker, but I think it's high time we gave penalty taking responsibilities to someone else.

Then it was deja vu all over again. We've seen it with frustrating regularity since the end of 2015. Valencia struggle against a side they should be beating easily and then, despite Valencia having the edge, the other team score due to stupid defensive errors. So it was in the case. Inexperienced in a more defensive role, Soler messed up, but still it looked like the chance had passed, however, same as usual, there seemed to be no leadership or coordination at the back. Just look at the picture...



So poor, with so many players marking space unaware of who was around.

Valencia did at least try a bit more after that. Changes were made that should have come earlier, with Mina coming on for Montoya and, later, Bakkali on for Mangala. Valencia pushed hard and got their reward, from a decent cross from the right, Munir produced a looping header which beat the goalkeeper. There may have been a touch of luck about it, but bad as Valencia had been, they didn't deserve to lose against such a weak side.

A long period of injury time followed, with Gijon causing flutters by squandering a good chance to win it. All in all, 1-1 was probably a fair result and that's the problem. Sporting look doomed for the drop and are the type of side that the bigger sides would expect to beat by 3 or 4 at home. Valencia battling to scrape a home draw is far from acceptable. We can talk about luck all we want but for me it's hard to argue that Valencia should be higher than the 13th place we currently occupy. We deserve much, much better than this. Next up Barcelona away and it's hard to be confident after displays like this.

PLAYER RATINGS

Alves 6.5 - overall had a good game, making decent stops
Gaya 7 - good game, just a shame the attack lacked the strength or foresight to get on the end of his crosses
Garay 5.5 - average and unspectacular game, still expect more for 20 million
Mangala 6 - good first half but then went missing in the second part
Montoya 5 - while it's better to have him at right back, him and Cancelo might as well have been on different teams
Soler 4.5 - wasted and ineffective in a deeper role
Parejo 4 - lacklustre, dwelled too much in possession and failed to provide the telling passes. Needs to be replaced as main penalty taker too.
Munir 4.5 - gets kudos for scoring the goal, but disappointing performance overall, should be rested for Mina or Bakkali
Orellana 4.5 - provided good passes but loses marks for missing two good chances
Cancelo 4 - if Valencia's masterplan for the summer transfer market is selling him for 30 million to fund players in, they should think again. We'd be lucky to get half that. Clearly has talent but has had a disappointing season.
Zaza 5.5 - as always, made an effort, but it wasn't enough. Gets caught offside too easily and was very lucky not to get sent off when he pushed a Gijon player when already on a yellow. Soler was sent off for less last month. Not convinced that we'll get value for money for our 18 million.

SUBS
Mina 5 - good to see him back, but not enough time to make an impact
Bakkali 5 - needs to come on earlier in such situations when we're chasing the game









 
 



Monday, March 6, 2017

Atletico Madrid 3-0 Valencia post-match thread

I missed yesterday's game, so I'm putting this up instead for discussion. From what I saw of the highlights and from reading the match reports, it sounds like Valencia were simply outplayed from the beginning. The team has done well this year to claim the scalps of Real Madrid, Villarreal and Bilbao, but away from home is still struggling and lacks any real consistency, so quality teams can easily find a way to break Valencia down.

On the plus side, Santi Mina returned yesterday, giving Voro an extra option. The game was also Zaza's ninth, so if he plays one more game, we're compelled to buy him. Reports suggest the club has already decided to do so. I don't think he's worth the money. While he does add qualities which have been missing, 2 goals in 9 games isn't a great return for a centre forward, it's equal to what Mina achieved last season from the wing and far short of Negredo's 2 goals in 5 games average or even Alcacer or Rodrigo's goal in 3 games.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Importance of Luck

Valencia has not had, by many teams' standards, a great season. The club hired and fired two managers, settling for a man who has never coached a team in a professional league for more than 3 or 4 games. Not to take away from what Voro has managed during his short tenure, but to find themselves with him as their best option shows Valencia’s board is a little desperate.
 
And they should be. Valencia was forced to sell some of its best players--Paco Alcacer, Andre Gomes, and Mustafi--over the summer to make ends meet. To replace them, the board brought in players for whom it would be kind to call gambles, such as Medran, Mangala, and Mario Suarez. Some of the gambles payed off, like Montoya and Mangala. Others look less comfortable on the pitch, like Mario Suarez. Regardless, from the start, Valencia looked to be on tenuous ground.
 
The season started with a wild 2-4 loss against Las Palmas in Mestalla. Though Santi Mina scored the first goal, the lead couldn’t be kept, as Livaja scored his first goal in LStiga only ten minutes after. Then, we had a harsh penalty called against us, letting Las Palmas take the lead. They soon scored again, another debutante in La Liga, Kevin Prince, and though Santi Mina scored again, the game was out of reach.
 
That game is fairly symbolic of the season. The team plays well, scores, and then collapses as the opponent exploits its various instabilities. Two weeks later, after tying a two-goal lead against Real Betis with 10 men--a Herculean feat--a minute 92 goal cost us the point, and the moral boost. 

Against Barcelona, after taking the lead in minute 56 and later being tied up until minute 93, a harsh penalty robbed Valencia's fan of the chance to savour that feeling of holding back a great team. 

Against Celta, another lead was given up. A minute 93 goal conceded against Malaga cost us another 2 points. Against Eibar, after playing a strong first half, in the 45th minute, an incredibly severe penalty and red card was given to Soler for a typical scruff in the box.
 
Luck is an integral part of football. It's a crazy, messy game with many variables and moving parts. A goal can be scored or conceded in a matter of seconds. Real Madrid is a team with extremely good luck (some saying suspiciously good luck) being able to pull "remontadas" against very difficult odds. Many times, a team can play well but still be unlucky. It’s part of what makes this sport so fun to watch. 

Recently, Valencia has had terrible luck. They had terrible luck with referees, with their transfers, with their fans, and more. The last-minute goals, the unfair penalties, the untimely injuries. It weighs a team down.
 
This is not to say that Valencia is solely held back by bad luck. The team has played very poorly for stretches of the season, and deserved the correspondingly poor results.To truly fix Valencia’s issues with form, solutions need to come tactically and systematically from management. 

Still, on a team level and on an individual player level, it has often seemed as though Valencia was labouring under a curse.
  
Can we hope that curse may be lifting? Against Espanyol, Valencia was able to keep their lead and get all three points. Against Real Madrid, Zaza and Orellana put in the two best chances the team had in the first 12 minutes, and then the team was able to hold off one of the best offenses in the world, no small accomplishment. Against Athletic, there were two fortunate goals and a returning from injury Aduriz that let Valencia through unscathed.
 
Don't wash that lucky jersey yet. The trials aren't over, the deep issues still remain, and anything can happen in football. Nevertheless, going into the rest of the season, there is reason to hope that Valencia might have better luck,and that it will create a certain stability that will let them deal with their problems.
 
What do you think? Has luck affected us more than other teams? Will we get better? Let us know in the comments section below.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Valencia 1-0 Leganes

Tonight, sadly, was the last game of the season against Leganes, a team that Valencia had beaten already 3 times this season. We duly made it a clean sweep for the season, with only the margin of victory the slight let-down.

Voro made no concessions for the upcoming game against Atletico, fielding the strongest team possible. Mangala came back in for Abdennour, Gaya and Perez also returned and up front, with virtually everyone who could play left wing injured or suspended, Bakkali finally got a start.

The first half was a comfortable enough one for Valencia, without threatening too much. Zaza had a couple of tough chances in the first 10 minutes, heading over. The clearest chance came in the 18th minute, with a ricochet giving Bakkali a one-on-one with the keeper, he did well to lift it over him, but the ball went wide. Valencia had most of the possession but weren't creating much and some of the final balls were disappointing. We defeinitely missed having Nani or Orellana this game, though Gaya put in a good shift.

Just as the Mestalla was getting restless, the breakthrough came. Parejo had had perfect pass completion up to this point. He had yet another amazing free kick which was tipped over from the keeper. From the resulting corner, Mangala scored his first ever Valencia goal after a scramble in the box.

If Valencia were struggling for attacking ideas, Leganes looked even worse. Their tactic seemed to be to foul as much as possible. The closest they came to getting anything was in the 31st minute when they had a good penalty shout waved away. With their left back on a yellow, Voro switched Munir and Bakkali, hoping that Bakkali's pace would draw a foul and a second yellow. This worked 5 minutes later, as he clattered through Bakkali. The free kick was given, but not the yellow.

The half ended with Valencia having had close on 70% possession, but with a lack of chances. The second half followed much of the same pattern as the first. Valencia dominated the midfield. Parejo was passing well. Soler always looked dangerous and Zaza, obviously bored with no one managing to pass through to him was harassing both their defence and midfield. The problem was that even when Valencia did get any kind of attack going, our players would be fouled. Bakkali had put in a reasonable shift and came off for Lato. The match petered out with both sides creating little in the way of threat and Leganes' dirty play inevitably resulted in them going down to 10 men.

A game that deserved a bigger win from Valencia, but a win to nil is such a rarity that it's hard to complain too much. That's 3 clean sheets from 5 games and three wins in a row at the Mestalla. The relegation zone looks far away now. With Las Palmas and Betis yet to play, this result puts us temporarily up to 12th, our highest position this season, so it's safe to say progress is being made, though there will be dips like the Alaves game along the way.

PLAYER RATINGS
Alves 6 - had nothing to do the whole game. I wish he would stop spending so much time on the ball, though.
Gaya 6.5 - good game and put in same nice crosses
Mangala 7.5 - decent game from the big man, cut out a lot of their attacks and nice to see him finally score.
Garay 7 - part of a good defensive performance
Cancelo 6 - injury to Montoya means we're stuck with him at right back where he's average. Giving him a higher score due to his offensive contributions.
Enzo 6.5 - essential part of the midfield trio and any game where he completes 90 minutes without getting booked must be a rarity
Parejo 8 - top class, great passing, anticipation and free kicks. Hope he stays.
Soler 7.5 - a great game, always looked an attacking threat
Bakkali 6 - good to see him get a game, but his passing and decision making could be better
Zaza 6.5 - had barely any scoring chances, but I liked his workrate and harrassment of their players
Munir 3.5 - had to check that he played. Did provide the assist, but anonymous performance

SUBS
Lato 6 - would really like to see this guy play more
Nacho Gil N/A - brother of Carles Gil, good luck to him.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Alaves 2-1 Valencia

What a let-down. But let's be honest, who didn't see that coming? We see it all the time. VCF produces a great performance that surprises us. Usually it's against the big two (our record against Real Madrid is 2-3-1 for example and we've won two of the last three at the Nou Camp.) However, when it comes to the following game, often against one of the smaller teams, we screw it all up and come back to earth with a bang. So it proved in this game.

Voro made some changes. Two were enforced. Gaya had picked up a knock and was replaced by Siquiera. As I predicted in the previous thread, Nani's absence was covered by Soler rather than Bakkali, with Orellana moving out left. Suarez came in for Enzo, who presumably was tired after the previous game. A slight surprise came with the selection of Abdennour, rather than Mangala, at the back.

If the previous game had caused out blood pressure to rise to dangerously high levels, there was little chance of that happening in the first half. Voro and Pellegrino knew each other well and set out to frustate the other. The result looked like a chess game between two equal players, with little happening. Valencia looked a bit tired after their midweek exertions and Alaves had the best of the early play, though only created one good chance, which Diego (Alaves) saved well. Valencia's best chance of the first half came in the 17th minute. Siquiera put in a great cross and Soler missed a golden chance. At the back, Soler was underachieving, though, and Alaves best chance came towards the end of the first half, when Soler had lost the man he should have been covering. Alaves had only had two other half chances, both coming from misplaced passes from Cancelo and Suarez.

A dull first half had ended and the next quarter would be little better, with both teams cancelling each other out. Valencia's passing was lacklustre, with Parejo an exception and the team was creating few chances. Alaves had set up well defensively, but there was far too much losing the ball when we had it. The game looked destined for a goalless draw and it would have been a brave person who'd bet on over 2.5 goals with 25 minutes left.

Valencia made the breakthrough in the 69th minute. A Parejo special was saved well by the keeper but Soler had followed up to make amends for his earlier miss. The game changed in the 77th minute. First, Orellana, who'd walked a fine line, got a booking. He walked away mouthing off to the referee, not a wise move and Voro should have subbed him off there and then. Secondly, Alaves scored and it was a dreadful goal to give away, like some of the stupid ones we conceded last year. Four Valencia players were unable to stop Alaves getting a shot in for the equaliser.

I was a bit disappointed in Voro's lack of reaction, our legs were tired and it was time for subs, but it wasn't until Alaves had scored the winner that action was taken. They played the ball through our defence. Cancelo stood like a dummy playing them onside



and Diego dived too soon. Game over, but not before Orellana had gotten himself sent off. That was stupid and the subs that followed the goal were too little too late.

All in all, it's a disappointing follow-up to the euphoria of the Real Madrid game. The team was clearly tired and it seemed like midweek had zapped our energy. Back to earth we come. In fairness, I do think the performance was an improvement on what we saw before Christmas and if we'd hadn't had the midweek game, I think we'd have drawn or won this game, but coping with fixture congestion is something all top teams have to do and Valencia's squad doesn't seem to be strong enough to do so.

PLAYER RATINGS
Diego 7 - made some key stops, though I expected better for the second goal
Siquiera 6 - had a good first half in both defence and attack, but shaky after the break. There was one moment where he and Abdennour let a man run right through them.
Garay 6 - Was good for most of the match, but what was he doing for the first Alaves goal???
Abdennour 7 - overall a good game, excellent first half especially, but a few shaky moments, which could prove crucial against tougher opponents.
Cancelo 3.5 - inefficient in both defence and attack. Poor passing and bad timing for the second goal. Game to forget.
Mario 4.5 - while he frustrated some of the Alaves attacks, his passing was often poor and it's hard to make a case for him being in the team based on this performance.
Parejo 7.5 - solid game, proved once again why he's indispensable. It's a shame others can't maintain his level.
Soler 5.5 - while his goal was good, this was an average game overall and he proved much less effective defensively than Enzo, while failing to make an impact up front.
Orellana 5.5 - after a good first half, in which I'd have given him at least 7, he lost it in the second period and the sending off was, in the end, predictable.
Munir 5 - unable to make an impact in attack and can't complain about being subbed off
Zaza 5.5 - worked hard but anticipation and decision-making could have been better

SUBS
Enzo 6 - improvement on Munir but still looked tired after the last game
Bakkali N/A - if he couldn't get on in the last game or this, his days as a Valencia player are clearly numbered, especially with Orellana able to cover that side
Nacho Gil N/A - little point in bringing him on so late

Friday, February 24, 2017

Orellana, Soler, and Valencia's New Midfield

When the 2016-2017 season started, Valencia had, among other problems, a definite weakness in its midfield. The team liked to play in a 4-3-3, which is a formation that is very physically demanding, especially for the midfield three, as they must simultaneous assist the forwards in pressing as well as cover both fullbacks. So when a team uses this formation, they usually try to have at least two alternatives for the midfield, both for rotation and tactical versatility.

Valencia, at the time, had just four midfields who could play in these three positions: Medran, Parejo, Perez, and Suarez. Aside from the fact that all four players had a history of being inconsistent, the situation was precarious because Valencia was never more than an injury and a suspension away from having no choice but to change tactical approach.

The coaches knew this: Paco Ayestaran tried to switch to a 4-2-3-1 formation, and Prandelli tried to play Fede Cartabia in a more central position to little success, as well as playing with formations a lot to try and find a better way for the team to play. Both had little success dealing with their midfield, and it was more for a lack of personnel than a lack of trying.

So when Voro took over, it seemed he was in as difficult situation as his predecessors. He had the good fortune to coincide with two key turns in Valencia’s season: the emergence of Carlos Soler and the acquisition of Fabian Orellana.

Voro prefers a 4-2-3-1 system, which used to include Dani Parejo as the 10 and Mario Suarez and Enzo behind him. However, now he has much more viable options in front of him. Orellana’s brilliance as an enganche and Carlos Soler’s ability to play as one of the midfield pair means that his midfield options have tripled on the bench.

Now, Voro can start with Dani Parejo and Enzo Perez as the base with Orellana free in front of them, and on the bench he has a veritable tool kit: Soler’s legs and dribbling abilities, Medran’s creativity, and Suarez’s relative defensive stability. No longer is he limited to just putting in whichever one didn’t start, now he has much more influence and is able to make a change based on how the game is going.

This, along with Zaza and his ability to provide a reference point in attack, could be key as Valencia tries to keep its momentum going in La Liga, and might save our season. European qualification would be near impossible, but it’d be nice to say we tried.


What do you think? What else does the new midfield offer? What formations should we try? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Valencia 2-1 Real Madrid

I honestly wondered if I'd survive to write this. My nerves are shattered after that second half. It's an absolutely crucial win for Valencia which continues our resurgence and puts significant distance between us and the relegation zone.

It looked ominous from the start. Any hopes that Real would do a bit of rotation, with tough games against Villarreal and Napoli in the coming week, were soon disappointed. Zidane named the strongest possible team. Voro, though, went about it as business as usual. Naming a largely unchanged side, with Cancelo replacing the injured Montoya and the fit again Gaya slotting in for Siquiera.

After a bit of early possession for Madrid, Valencia basically sealed the game in the first 8 minutes, and they were lovely goals too, both the type of counter-attacking ones that we used to specialise in. Cancelo sent Munir away and a perfect cross found Zaza. It looked like there was no danger, but he swivelled and scored a real "golazo", beating the helpless Navas. Four minutes later, we were away again. With Valencia breaking, Zaza put a decent pass to Nani in space. Zaza made a great run to draw the defender away and create space for the advancing Munir and Orellana and it was the latter who made no mistake.

Madrid were stunned and it was almost 3-0 in the 13th minute, with a shot from Munir blocked. Madrid began to come back into, and Alves was forced into a couple of saves, including a great one from Benzema. With backs to the wall and Madrid mostly controlling the game, Zaza was getting limited service and got booked after a bit of over-agressiveness, his only blot in a decent game.

For all their possession, Madrid were struggling to break down a really well-organised Valencia defence, who were repelling everything RM threw at them. Valencia had another break in the 40th minute, with Nani cutting down the wing well and playing it back for Parejo, who fired over. This move proved costly, however, as Nani went off injured. His 6 assists in La Liga this season have only been bettered by Kroos, Luis Suarez, Piatti and Neymar.

Just as it looked that we were going in at halftime with a comfortable lead, Madrid halved the deficit. Cancelo should have done more to cut out the cross and Mangala, who had been winning most of the aerial duels up to then, lost his man. Unfortunately, this was one of the best headers in world football, CR7, who planted an unstoppable header past Alves.

The second half was an uncomfortable one to be a Valencia fan, as Madrid bombarded the Valencia defence. VCF in contrast, only had a couple of half chances for Parejo and Zaza, but, with most of the Valencia team forceably camped in their own half, lack of options meant the chances came to nothing.

No game against Madrid would be complete without dicey and questionable refereeing. In fairness, Penaldo should have had a penalty when Mangala brought him down, but any injustice towards Madrid was more than outdone at the other end. First, Zaza was barged off the ball by Carvajal, which the ref deemed a shoulder challenge but gets given as a penalty half the time. The second was absolutely blatant, with Munir brought down by Ramos inside the area. It was also a mystery how Bale managed to escape at least a yellow, hacking down Cancelo in a petty revenge move. Madrid also showed their lack of class, playing on even when Valencia had Zaza and later Parejo down injured. That was the only negative for Valencia this game, with Nani and Zaza going off with injury concerns. Orellana was also substituted, though it's unclear if that was for tactical reasons or because he'd picked up a knock.

Madrid had an insane 72% of possession and were pinging the ball from wing to wing desperately trying to find a way through, but were mostly stifled by a resilient VCF defence. The closest RM came was a Bale header and a scramble inside the box, with Bale and Ramos trying and failing to poke the equaliser in. Navas even came up for a corner at the end, but Valencia managed to avoid their conceding-late-goals hoodoo and held on for a vital and morale boosting win.

It's hard to believe that 2 months ago, it was all doom and gloom, with Prandelli's rant about suffering for the shirt and the team only out of the relegation zone on goal difference. In 2017, only the top four have got more points than us and we have wins over Bilbao, Madrid and Villarreal under our belts. European qualification looks a jump too far, but there's no way we shouldn't go on to push for top ten. Now to player ratings, and you'll forgive me if these are a bit "samey" but it's hard to differentiate these guys after such a great showing.

PLAYER RATINGS
Alves 9 - made some crucial saves. I criticised his distribution before but he was involved in starting off the first goal.
Gaya 8 - mostly handled the Real Madrid attacks.
Garay 8.5 - solid and reliable defensive performance, stopped almost everything that came his way.
Mangala 8 - at fault for the goal, but a great aerial presence and also blocked a near certain goal.
Cancelo 7 - involved in the first goal, but weakest one of the defence and should have closed down better for the goal. Overall, not a bad performance, though.
Enzo 8.5 - really great stuff. As ever, marred by a bit of aggression, but contained the Madrid attacks well.
Parejo 8 - solid performance, containing Madrid attacks, which were forced out on to the channels. Also nearly scored from one of his trademark free kicks.
Nani 7.5 - excellent pass to set up the goal. Hope the injury is nothing serious.
Orellana 9 - just like Cheryshev last season, has made a big difference to the team. Luckily, he'll be around a bit longer.
Munir 8.5 - having a good run of games and a super cross for the first goal.
Zaza 8.5 - super first half, brilliant goal and excellent run to create the space for the second. A quieter second half, due to VCF being pinned back. If he plays the next three games like this, we're in for a tricky decision.

SUBS
Siquiera 7 - was under pressure, but mostly did his job.
Soler 7 - decent job in stopping Madrid attacks through the centre.
Mario N/A - job done. Nothing to complain about.