Monday, December 9, 2019

UEFA Champions League Group Stage: Ajax Amsterdam 0 - 1 Valencia CF Match Thread

Here we go, the big game is upon us. The team has a chance to reach heights that haven't been attained for a while - the Champions League Knockout Stages.

The team could not secure qualification in the last matchday, although they were very close. The 2-2 draw against Chelsea at Mestalla was a game where the scoreline could not possible tell the whole story. The chances came and they fell exactly to the players that they wanted them to fall to but it just wasn't to be. Those misses cannot be repeated here.

Ajax has beaten Valencia in the previous leg of this fixture earlier in the season. The team suffered a 3-0 loss at Mestalla, and that one was a game to forget. However, this is not the same team anymore. Celades only had a few games under his belt and not enough to time to gel with the team and implement his ideas. I think a win is a realistic goal, although the team will have to work very hard to get it.

Ajax come into this game with a 0-2 loss at home against Willem in the Dutch Eredivisie. They had dominated the possession that game but did not make the most of it. They played a day before Valencia did against Levante so they had an extra day of rest. The previous Champions League game saw Ajax win 0-2 away from home against Lille. That win leaves them top of the group table at 10 points from 5 games.

Valencia's weekend had the team play in a local derby against Levante. They had fallen two goals down in the first 20 minutes of the game and it was looking like a disappointing game. Aided by a late own goal at the end of the first half and some half-time change in ideas, they found the strength in the second half to score 3 more goals to secure a comeback and a 2-4 away win. In the Champions League, the 2-2 draw against Chelsea in the previous game leaves Valencia tied with Chelsea at 8 points. With the tiebreaker considered Valencia is currently second and would qualify.

All that is required is to match or surpass Chelsea's result since the tiebreaker favors Valencia. However, Chelsea have Lille at home and Valencia has Ajax away from home. The focus should be to go for a win and not worry about the other game. Go with the mindset that Chelsea will win their game and if they don't that's a bonus.

Ajax Champions League form: WWDLW
Ajax League form: LWWWW

Valencia Champions League form: WLDWD
Valencia League form: WWLWW

LINEUPS

In the last game against Levante, the team had recovered Diakhaby from injury but ended the game by losing Cillissen to injury. He misses this game. Garay is suspended from this game for yellow card accumulation. In training, there was more bad news as Maxi Gomez also fell to injury. This takes one of Valencia's top scorers out of this game. It will make the game harder no doubt. However, with Gameiro playing in good fashion last game, we have a good replacement.

Rivero is promoted to 2nd goalkeeper for the game and Bernad is called up as 3rd. In defense, Mangala returns to cover Garay's absense. Esquerdo continues to feature in the squad list and is joined by Pablo Gozálbez to complete the squad numbers.


It looks like Celades will keep the 4-4-2 and not adjust for injuries. Diakhaby is preferred over Mangala as the starting CB. With the attacking players limited due to injury, the team only has Vallejo as an attacking substitution. Gaya and Correia can play further up on either side in midfield and that might free up Vallejo or Ferran to play further forward but only if necessary should this be done.

Bench: Rivero, Mangala, Costa, Correia, Pablo Gozalbez, Esquerdo, Vallejo

MATCH

2' - Great chance for Valencia is missed. The corner delivery is flicked on by Paulista at the near post to Rodrigo who gets a header of his own but cannot hit the target.
6' - The Valencia clearances are looking a bit sloppy, they always fall to Ajax players.
9' - Yellow card for Ajax, Alvarez trips up Soler who was running into space.
10'  - Parejo takes the freekick but plays a short one to Gaya who tries to pick out Rodrigo but the pass was over-hit.
24' - GOAL VALENCIA! 0-1! Gaya picks out Ferran who disguises his pass to Rodrigo as a shot. Rodrigo fires the ball into the top right corner!
26' - So many Ajax fouls.
36' - Ajax with a very dangerous ball into the box, Jaume just manages to push it away.
42' - Gaya with a very good clearance after an Ajax free kick. The flicked ball was going towards goal.
44' - Gaya sets up a chance on the opposite side. Through ball from Soler to pick him out, he crosses to Gameiro in the center. Gamerio looks up finds Rodrigo, plays him in. Rodrigo feigns the defender and gets some space but his shot is blocked by another defender. Gaya with a real presence this game. Good to see after his injury.

HALF-TIME: Valencia with quite possibly one of, it not, the best first halves under Celades. The pressure applied forced Ajax into many mistakes that they don't normally make and the chances follow from them. In the first game, Ajax were allowed to keep possession with no pressure and this was addressed in some part today. Valencia almost took the lead 2 minutes into the game with an open header for Rodrigo but he couldn't hit the target. Rodrigo would then go on to score the goal that put Valencia ahead following a great build up. Gaya started the play in an advanced position, forcing a mistake from the Ajax defense. He found Ferran on the right and Ferran disguised his through ball to Rodrigo. Rodrigo would score this chance despite it being more difficult that his first.

Chelsea lead 2-0 in their game against Lille so Valencia must maintain this win to go through. Valencia usually play a better second half and if the first half was already quite good, the second half could be great. The guard cannot go down though. There were many dangerous plays by the Ajax players but the two banks of 4 have kept them at bay. Coquelin is also having quite a decent game in midfield winning possession and intercepting passes. Diakhaby is dealing with any aerial threats in defense.

45' - Half time substitution for Ajax. Dest in for the booked Alvarez.
48' - Lang draws out Paulista wide, beats him and sets up Ziyech for a change but he cannot hit the target, it's wide at the far post.
51' - Tadic clashes with Paulista and falls down on top of him, causing injury to his knee. He is getting treatment on the sidelines. We cannot afford another injury.
53' - First substitution for Valencia. Gameiro is replaced by Vallejo. Gameiro looked like he was struggling with a knock/injury. That's another player out. Paulista limps back onto the pitch.
54' - Rodrigo with a decent chance. He found the opening at the edge of the box and curled a shot at the far post but slipped in the last moment. The ball barely scrapes the top left corner of the post.
55' - Paulista putting his body in the firing range to block and Ajax shot. Possession returns to Ajax and another ball is played into the box. Jaume scrambles off his line and gathers up the ball pressured by Ajax players.
59' - Diakhaby getting to every cross and aerial ball first. Ajax struggling to get one past him.
66' - Ajax with a huge opportunity. de Beek setting up Tadic with a square ball into the area but he completely misses the target.
68' - Another linkup between de Beek and Tadic, this time from the right. The cross results in an overhead kick but it's wide again. Ajax really stepping up the pressure.
70' - Second change for Ajax, Lang off for Huntelaar
77' - Ajax getting really frustrated. Every touch on a Valencia players is getting awarded as a free kick. But Ajax doesn't learn and keeps at it.
78' - Yellow card for Jaume for time wasting.
79' - Vallejo makes a chance for him with a slick touch to pass between the left-back and the central defender. Tagliafico takes him out and gets booked. Yellow card only. Parejo with a free kick well within his range.
80' - In the protests and arguments that ensue, Parejo and Onana get booked. Yellow card for each.
82' - Parejo's free kick hit right at the keeper. Easy save.
83' - Van de Beek with a dangerous challenge on Gaya. Yellow card.
85' - Vallejo booked for a late challenge.
86' - Valencia content with playing the ball to the opposing corner flag to waste time.
88' - Ajax with their final change. Tagliafico off for de Jong.
89' - Miscommunication between Wass and Jaume running into each other. The ball is loose but Wass manages to clear, it falls right to an Ajax player at the edge of the box. He fires at the open net but Jaume reaches just in time to deny him. These saves are as good as goals.
90' - Five minutes of time added by the referee.
91' - Gaya gets beaten and the cross meets Ziyech at the opposite flank. He volleys at the near post but Jaume is up to it again.
93' - Red card for Valencia. Paulista with a moment of stupidity after a great game. He gets fouled and retaliates with a headbutt, getting sent off. Tadic gets booked for his involvement. It's a corner for Ajax.
94' - Celades still has one more substitution and he's using it. Mangala will come on to take Paulista's spot. Ferran Torres is sacrificed. Paulista will miss the next 3 games for suspension according to commentary.
95' - Mangala clears the corner in his first involvement.
96' - Diakhaby clearing every long ball that Ajax is putting in desperately. The referee blows the whistle! It's over!

FULL-TIME

Valencia held out! They've done it! They've beat Ajax, away from home, with a clean sheet and qualified at the top of the group. Chelsea finished second. Ajax is eliminated and goes to the Europa League.

The second half was pretty much all about the pair of Paulista and Diakhaby, as well as Jaume in goal. It was a barrage of Ajax efforts and their response to deny those efforts. Jaume produced some stretched clutch saves that are the equivalent of goals on the other side. Diakhaby dealt with every aerial threat. In the dying minutes of the game when Ajax got desperate and starting putting in long balls, Diakhaby was heading them away with ease, shutting down any hope. Paulista dealt with efforts on the ground. He caused a scare towards the end with his red card, reducing Valencia to ten men. It was a stupid challenge and could've cost the team, but luckily there wasn't much time left.

It was no surprise that someone was going to get sent off. The game had 8 yellow cards and Paulista's red card capped off the bookings. It was a straight red meaning he will the next few games for suspension. Hopefully Garay and Mangala will be fit enough to cover.

I think most people had written off Valencia for this game and it's good to produce this convincing performance on a night like this. Despite Ajax dominating possession, they didn't have a single shot on goal for the majority of the game. Only towards the end did they get their chance.

Valencia managed to frustrate Ajax drawing many challenges and capitalizing on them to win free kicks and disrupt Ajax's flow.

Very good game all round although unfortunate about the red card and Gameiro's injury. The effort really showed out there today.

This win will bring Valencia to the round of 16 for the first time since the 2012-13 season where they faced PSG. This win also brings 2.7 million euros for the result and 9.5 million euros for the qualification. This will help in the club's financial situation and give the club more leeway in transfer dealings.

Next game is on Sunday against Real Madrid in La Liga at Mestalla. With a win like this to take to that game, bring it on! Congratulations everyone! Amunt!


Saturday, December 7, 2019

La Liga Matchday #16: Levante UD 2 - 4 Valencia CF Match Thread

We are three days away from the mid-point of the season and Valencia head into their second derby in a row, the first against Villareal, this one against Levante.

Valencia come into this game on the back of a close match against Villareal in which they won 2-1 at home. After a slow first half where the highlight was a penalty save from Cillissen, Valencia came into the game in the second half right off the bat. Maxi Gomez had great vision and execution to find Rodrigo with a lob who in turn took the ball away from the keeper and tapped it in. Villareal would get back into the game a few minutes later when Parejo's pass was intercepted and Anguissa cut inside, found the space and scored form distance. Ferran would rescue the team once again with a volley to meet Wass's cross. The team almost always steps up in the second half of games. It would be great if that level can be maintained across both halves.

Levante on the other hand, got absolutely hammered away to Getafe. The match ended 4-0 with all goals coming in the second half. 

Three points separate the two teams in the table. Valencia are 8th with 23 points while Levante sit at 11th with 20 points. Valencia are also 3 points away from both European competitions. So this is a chance to put pressure on the teams that currently occupy them.

Levante La Liga form: LWLWW
Valencia La Liga form: WLWWD

LINEUP

Garay and Diakhaby both return the lineup having recovered from their injuries. Their addition to the team displaces Mangala as he gets dropped from the list. Cheryshev has already began training with the group and should be back soon but is not in this list. Kondogbia is the other player who is expected back soon according to estimates.

In midfield, the good news is that Coquelin remains in the lineup after having some discomfort in the last few minutes of the last game. Esquerdo, who was his replacement last game, also keeps his spot in the lineup. No other changes to report.


Three changes to note in the lineup. In defense, Garay takes back his spot from Mangala after a brief absence. Jaume Costa starts over Gaya as left-back. Finally, Maxi Gomez is given a rest in favor of Gameiro, who has barely started games under Celades. The latter two changes were probably made with an eye at the massive mid-week game against Ajax.

Bench: Domench, Gaya, Correia, Diakhaby, Esquerdo, Vallejo, Maxi Gomez.

MATCH

3' - Levante starting off with some quick passing, retaining posession.
6' - Yellow card for Coke. Great vertical overhead ball to Gamerio, he controls and faces two defenders. He sees no support coming and decides to take them on by himself. He gets through them and they bring him right on the edge of the penalty box.
8' - Yellow card for Morales for protesting. Parejo's free kick is aimed right but slightly too high.
10' - Goal for Levante. 1-0. Roger Marti receives the ball wide on the left flank. Garay doesn't close him down and stands with arms behind his back expecting a cross. He shift to his right foot and fires at goal, beating Cillissen at the near post. Parejo also tried to get in the way but couldn't stop it.
15' - Levante getting too much time and space on the ball to do whatever they want.
18' - Penalty for Levante. Morales makes a run into the box uncontested, Parejo decides to take him out with a sliding challenge from behind.
19' - Goal Levante. 2-0. Roger Marti with the goal from the penalty spot. Cillissen guessed the right direction and the right height but it was just beyond his fingertips.
23' - Third yellow card for Levante, this time for Rochina. He tripped up Rodrigo and then said the wrong thing to the referee in complaint.
25' - Ferran Torres hardly touched the ball since the beginning of the game. The ball keeps being played away from him.
26 - Misfortune for Valencia, Cillissen calls to the bench that he cannot continue due to discomfort. Domench gets ready quickly and comes in. Cillissen heads into the tunnel.
28' - Rodrigo picks out Gameiro with a ball over the top of the defense. The keeper races Gameiro for the ball and gets there first.
30' - Yellow card for Coquelin . Late challenge on Rochina.
33' - Rochina with another foul, stepping on Costa's foot. Costa had made a run forward and was primed to take a shot from the edge of the box after Parejo picked him out. Free kick in a good position. He's playing with fire, he's already been booked.
34' - Parejo gets the shot on target but right at the keeper who punched the ball back out into play.
35' - Goal ruled out for Valencia. Costa plays the ball to Soler and continues the run. The ball is returned to him and he pulls in back for Gameiro. Gameiro's shot is saved, falls to Rodrigo who scores but he was in an offside position.
40' - A goal kick from Levante all the way to the opposite end. Should be easy but Paulista misses the ball and leaves the Levante player through on goal. Luckily, he responds very quickly and gets back in time to block the shot for a corner.
42' - What a chance. An overhead ball reaches Gameiro who heads it down for Rodrigo and he mis hit it. It is returned to Gamerio who tries to salvage a goal but the keeper saves it.
43' - Yellow card for Falcon. Gameiro had beat him for pace on the left flank and was through in space so he took him down.
45' - Two minutes of additional time. Parejo is forced to retake the free kick. Soler gets enough on the delivery to set up Garay, he takes a shot at the near post but it is parried for a corner.
45+2' - Goal for Valencia. 2-1. It's an own goal. Roger Marti has scored this one as well. Three goals for him.

HALF-TIME: What a gift this goal is, especially at that timing it gives the team a chance. That performance is just not good enough. This was Levante's half. Not to say that Valencia didn't have chances of their own but that half showed a visible quality gap between the teams.  Ferran is starved from the ball and the few times he has received, he isn't in a position or the space to do anything with it. He started on the left for some reason and switched with Soler half-way through the half.  The team is relying a lot on these balls over the defense and with varying degrees of success. The chances that it has set up were half-chances with Rodrigo's effort being the only clear chance. I feel this strategy works better with Maxi Gomez in the lineup. But maybe they're relying too much on this strategy and too eager to replicate the success found in previous games from these types of set ups. It's okay to try it but the team should avoid being predictable and try various buildups. Also, it's unfortunate to lose Cillissen to injury, hopefully he recovers quickly. As I said in the pre-game, second halves are usually better for Valencia so I'm expecting improvement.

52' - Both keepers with saves in a short time span to keep the game level. Jaume saves the shot to the far post from Morales and in the following play, Rodrigo is denied by the keeper again.
56' - GOAL VALENCIA! 2-2! The game is level. The pass back from the Levante defense was hit too strong and Rodrigo reacted quickly picking up the ball and driving it forward. The keeper comes out to deal with him but he chips him beautifully! It appears Gameiro got the last touch as the ball went in.
58' - GOAL VALENCIA! 2-3! The team has come back to take the lead. Rodrigo picks out Ferran with a through ball, Ferran runs down the left flank and plays the ball across to Gameiro who hits the ball back across goal to the far post and beats the keeper. That's more like it!
64' - These break-neck counter attacks are working much better than those overhead balls in the first half.
70' - Double substitution for Levante. Mayoral for Morales and Vukcevic for Rochina. That's two yellow-card players taken off.
80' - Jaume saves the shot from Mayoral who had made a run past a couple of Valencia players.
74' - Red card! Falcon gets a second yellow for tackling Rodrigo from behind. Levante a goal down and a man down now.
76' - Wass finds Ferran in space on the right. Ferran looks up finds the run of Rodrigo under pressure, picks him out but the striker cannot turn his body to get the shot on goal. Wide effort.
77' - Coke off, Gonzalo on for Levante. He had received a blow from a corner kick delivery straight to the head earlier and seemed to struggle.
78' - Celades to make his second change. Maxi Gomez coming on for Gameiro.
83' - The last substitution for Valencia. Coquelin is replaced by Diakhaby.
85' - Yellow for Ferran Torres for pushing Campana.
87' - GOAL VALENCIA! 2-4! Ferran Torres scores again! Wass to to Soler on the right, then to Rodrigo in the center, he waited and picked out a sublime through ball for the run of Ferran who beat the keeper at the far post. Rodrigo at his best this second half.
90' - Dangerous change for Levante. Wass plays a poor clearance and Levante produce a cross right in front of goal but Bardhi meets the cross but misses the target. Three minutes added.

FULL-TIME

The second derby also ends in a win for Valencia. A shaky first half which saw the team go down 2-0 gave the impression that this was going to be a disappointing game. Garay gave Marti space to shift on his right and beat Cillissen at the near post. Perhaps he should have saved that. Then a Levante penalty for a silly challenge by Parejo. Cillissen guessed correctly but could not execute the stop.

The team was gifted a goal at half-time via an own-goal from Marti. The second half saw a completely different Valencia. I wonder what goes on in the change room that seems to transform the team every time. Or is it simply part of the game plan to tire opposing teams out in the first half and then apply pressure in the second. Who knows?

The strategy of overhead balls and lobs that the team had in the first half was replaced by on-the-ground play in the form of counter attacks to a high degree of success. Valencia looked dangerous at every counter.

Rodrigo had a fantastic second half. His ability to drive the ball forward in transitions, as well as the vision to spot his teammates and execute well is really amazing when he's in this mood. The first goal he chipped the keeper and was unlucky the goal was awarded to Gameiro who had gotten the final touch. He would later also set up Ferran's goal

Ferran Torres really came into the game in the second half as well, having been deprived of the ball in the first. There seemed to be some changes as to where him and Soler were supposed to / expected to play. Ferran would set up Gameiro's goal and then go on to get his own goal following another Rodrigo transition play.

At the point of his goal, Levante had already gone down to 10-men since Falcon had been booked twice. Levante would not be able to get back into the game after that. Good comeback, away from home and in a derby.

Next game is huge. Tuesday, it's back to the Champions League against Ajax. Ajax will not be like this. It's an away game as well and Ajax pack the quality and the punch to punish mistakes more severely. Last game's 3-0 is a testament to that. Everyone needs to be at their absolute best. We play Real Madrid in the league at Mestalla in the league on Sunday but all focus should be on Ajax. The Champions League is important for the success of the club and the team has a great opportunity in front of them. Amunt!

Saturday, November 30, 2019

La Liga Matchday #15: Valencia CF 2 - 1 Villareal CF Match Thread

It's derby day for Valencia on this match day and the team has the advantage of playing at Mestalla. The team will be looking to get all 3 points and start making some progress towards the Champions League positions.

While Valencia is at mid-table (10th place with 20 points), the gap between them and 4th place Atletico Madrid is only 5 points. We're still 4 games away from the half-way point so there is way more than enough time to do so. It would be great though if we didn't have to wait till the final few matches to secure qualification but rather aim higher, especially with the usual contenders struggling. 

Valencia come in the match on the back of an intense mid-week game against Chelsea in the Champions League at Mestalla which ended 2-2. Valencia had the best chances of the game and if they were tucked away, would have walked out with a big win no doubt. The finishing however was a huge let down with our 2 top goalscorers and Rodrigo failing to score those chances. In the last matchday of La Liga, Valencia lost a quite even game against Real Betis in the final minutes via a Canales free kick.

Villareal's last game was a defeat at home to Celta Vigo, a game which finished 1-3. They find themselves in a similar league position as Valencia. They sit at 12th place with 18 points. They will be looking to get past their poor form and overtake Valencia in the league positions.

Valencia La Liga form: LWWDL
Villareal La Liga form: LLDLW


LINEUP

In mid-week, Jaume Costa and Kang In were both added to the injury list. Kang In felt discomfort from the moment he was introduced but played through his injury in attempt to help the team. There is a 1-1.5 month estimate on his recovery time.

Garay has pain in his hip and back and will be out of this game because of that with Mangala likely to start instead. He should return in the following game against Levante though. With Diakhaby, they are aiming to have him back, in the best case, against Ajax but could very well take more. Kondogbia has similar estimates to Diakhaby. 

Cheryshev will rejoin the group next week with the goal of being available against Levante but in the most likely case will take until the Ajax game.

For the two long-term injuries. Guedes needs until the new year for his return. They aim to allow him to fully recover and not rush. Finally Piccini needs slightly more and should return sometime in February. 

Moving the other way, Ruben Sobrino has recovered and joins the squad list. Javi Jiminez and Esquerdo are called to reinforce the defense and midfield respectively and complete the squad list. 


Similar starting XI to last game. 4-4-2. The changes are Wass returns to right-back, Coquelin takes his spot in midfield and Mangala takes over the injured Garay's spot.

Bench: Domenech, Correia, Jimenez, Esquerdo, Vallejo, Sobrino, Gameiro

MATCH

4 - What a brilliant run from Ferran Torres, he ran circles around the Villareal players. Too bad nothing came of this play.
13' - Penalty for Villareal. Gerard Moreno is found in space in the penalty area with a cross. He scuffs the shot, attempts to take another one but Mangala takes his down. Moreno steps up to take the penalty.
14' - Cillissen saves! That was quite a tame penalty and Cillissen guessed the right direction.
15' - Ekambi makes a run between Paulista and Mangala. He is picked out with a through ball and is through on goal but Cillissen is quick off his line to deal with it.
17' - Yellow card for Villareal. Raul Albiol is booked for a late challenge on Coquelin
18' - Why are both teams are giving away the ball so much?
19' - Trigueros will a long range effort to the top right corner but Cillissen saves.
30' - Ferran Torres with a chance but it's off-target.
36' - Gaya gets a chance at goal, it's on target but saved.
40' - Valencia get another chance via Ferran Torres but his shot is also saved.

HALF-TIME: Even at the break. I feel Valencia had the advantage in number of chances. It's a bit strange to see both sides give the ball away so much. The best chance came from a Villareal penalty after a challenge by Mangala but it wasn't hit with any conviction and Cillissen predicted correctly. Good work by him so far this half. Ferran Torres yet again also looks very lively and eager to get on the ball. I hope the team gets a good result in the second half, especially a home we should be the favorites.

49' - GOAL VALENCIA! 1-0! Gaya picks out a tight pass to Maxi Gomez on the left side of midfield. The Uruguayan looks up, sees the run of Rodrigo, turns and plays a delightful lob to Rodrigo who is pressured by two defenders. Rodrigo's first touch takes it away from the keeper and then he taps into the goal from an angle. Great play and what a pass!
53' - Goal Villareal. 1-1. Anguissa intercepts a pass to Parejo on the half-way line, drives the ball wide on the left, cuts inside and fires from just inside the penalty box to beat Cillissen in the bottom-left corner. Four defenders in front of him and they couldn't stop it.
55' - Yellow card for Gerard Moreno, foul followed by arguing with the referee.
59' - Valencia with a free kick on the left-flank after a foul on Gaya. Parejo delivers a great curling cross and Mangala gets a touch but fails to beat the keeper. So close.
61'- Rodrigo with a shot from distance to the far post but it's parried by the keeper for a corner.
62' - First change for Villareal, Ekambi off, Chukwueze on
65' -  Villareal very emboldened in the last few minutes, they are retaining possession and chances in the Valencia half
69' - Celades take off Maxi Gomez and replaces him with Kevin Gameiro
70' - GOAL VALENCIA! 2-1! Ferran Torres with the finish. Soler spreads the ball wide to find the run of Daniel Wass who then delivers a cross to the opposite flank where Ferran Torres volleys the ball towards goal. The keeper gets a touch but cannot keep it out.
73' - Ontiveros comes on for Morlanes as Villareal's second substitution is used.
74' - Wass with a great through ball along the touchline to find Rodrigo in space. He drives the ball forward, looks up to see Ferran and Gameiro in support. He choose the latter but the delivery does not reach him.
75' - Yellow card for Dani Parejo.
79' - Parejo, Coquelin and Rodrigo all seem to be struggling with some discomfort. Final change for Villareal, Bacca on for Moi Gomez.
82' - For Valencia's second substitution, Coquelin is taken off, Esquerdo comes on for his debut.
85' - Last substitution for Valencia, Sobrino replaces Rodrigo.
90' - Four minutes added for stoppages by the referee.
93' - Pinball inside the Valencia penalty area with players using their bodies to block the shots from the Villareal players but struggling to clear the ball.

FULL-TIME

A much needed result. The game in the second half definitely improved. The loose balls in the first half were reduced in the second. The good chances the team got were put away and there was great link up between players for the goals.

Cillissen was fantastic today, denying many of the efforts from the Villareal players, including a penalty. That penalty is the difference between the two scorelines today.

Ferran proved once again he was a lethal finisher and has great technical ability. He's in many ways playing the way that Guedes is expected to play. Taking on players, beating them, drawing defenders to free up other players, and great finishing ability. He even helped out on defense in many occasions with little sign of fatigue.

While Maxi Gomez didn't score, the ball he played for Rodrigo was of great vision and execution to match. Rodrigo did well to control the ball in that tight space and beat the keeper.

Coquelin had a great day in midfield although I hope that his substitution wasn't from injury but just a precaution. He seemed to have some discomfort. It would be a shame to lose him again so soon after recovery.

Parejo's passing towards the end of the game suffered drastically. He wasn't near the level we saw against Chelsea. There were several times where he could've set up such great chances, he saw them but the delivery was poor. This is kind of expected since he never gets rested. It's clear that the coaching staff feel like we cannot afford to rest him but he's started just about, if not all, all the games where he was available.

Mangala was involved in a penalty for Villareal in the first half as well a good chance at goal in the second half from a Parejo free kick but his effort was saved by the keeper. He needs more time, no doubt, to regain match fitness but at least we have him ready.

Next game is away to Levante for another derby on Saturday next week. Amunt!


Wednesday, November 27, 2019

UEFA Champions League Group Stage: Valencia CF 2 - 2 Chelsea FC Match Thread

In the pre-match conference in the game against Lille, Celades said that it was the most important game of the season. The team pulled off a 4-1 win that day. I think it's fair to say that this game takes its spot now.

Valencia's previous encounter against Chelsea in the group stage was coincidentally Celades's first game in charge. No one expected much but the team managed to take all 3 points, walk out with a clean sheet, and win away from home. Rodrigo's goal separated the teams on that occasion, coming at the 74th minute. Chelsea have been unbeaten in the Champions League since then, beating Lille, then Ajax and then in the return leg against Ajax secured a 4-4 draw after 2 Ajax players were shown the red card.

Valencia is tied with both Ajax and Chelsea at 7 points with 2 games to play still. After tiebreakers have been settled Valencia is 3rd. A win this game is enough to guarantee qualification though since the first tiebreaker is head-to-head games. This would make it impossible for Chelsea to catch up regardless of how the final game goes since they would at best be equal on points but lose the tiebreaker. 

The team had a disappointing performance the last matchday in La Liga, losing to 17th place Real Betis away from home in the dying minutes of the game. Chelsea also come into this game with an away loss with a scoreline of 2-1 against Manchester City. Both sides carry several injuries.

Valencia Champions League Form: WDLW
Chelsea Champions League Form: DWWL

LINEUP

Coquelin and Garay both rejoin the team and make the squad list for this match which will no doubt be a boost. It remains to be seen if they're deemed fit enough to start the game.

Celades opted to play Wass in midfield alongside Parejo rather than Coquelin. He could still have hope that Wass can put on a performance like he did against Granada and/or Coquelin isn't completely ready to get back.

Garay returns to the defense with Paulista, Costa retains his spot as right-back and Gaya on the opposite side.

Ferran has put in several great performances and it's no surprise that he starts yet again. Soler starts on the opposite flank. Rodrigo and Maxi Gomez are the preferred strike force for Celades. 


Bench: Domenech, Correia, Mangala, Coquelin, Kang In, Vallejo, Gameiro

MATCH

2' - James with a cross from the right that is not dealt with by the defense, it falls to Willian but he mishits it over the net with his head.
6' - Yellow card for Jorginho. Ferran Torres had gotten away from him into space and he was forced to bring him down. The resulting free kick is cleared for a corner.
17' - Chelsea seem to be relying on wide play to exploit the space left by full-backs.
18' - Parejo with a delightful through ball for Rodrigo, who had the time and space. He drives the ball forward, picks out Maxi Gomez but he misses the ball. That needs to be a goal. Very very unlucky.
21' - Costa from an advanced central position makes a cross to Carlos Soler who heads the ball towards goal but it's at a good height for the keeper.
29' - What is happening? Another chance for Valencia, ball falls to Maxi Gomez in plenty of space, yet it's nowhere near goal. It deflected sure, but that needs to end up in the back of the net. Great work by Soler and Ferran to press for the ball, good delivery by Parejo to find Maxi but the goal still eludes them. Come on Maxi!
32' - Yellow card shown to Daniel Wass for a body check.
35' - Ferran Torres has possession after a Chelsea mistake, he runs into the box but cannot find the space. The resulting counter from Chelsea results in a good chance. Willian crosses from the right-side to Abraham, the ball is parried, falls to Kante in space but hit over the cross bar.
38'- Another cross for Chelsea, falls to Abraham who fires at the top-right corner but Cillissen with a fantastic save to deny him.
39' - GOAL VALENCIA! 1-0! Carlos Soler with a volley from a Rodrigo cross. The chance started with a Cillissen goal kick, Ferran got the second ball, found Rodrigo in a wide position and he set up the chance for Soler.
41' - Goal Chelsea. 1-1! Kovacic receives the ball at the edge of the area with his back to goal, turns and beats Cillissen at the bottom-left corner.
44' - Pulisic goes past Garay and sets up Kovacic inside the box, but Cillissen parries the ball away for a corner.
45' - Two minutes added on for stoppages.
45+2' - Abraham collides with Garay and is forced off with an injury.

HALF-TIME: Close game. Chelsea started off well for the first 10 minutes or so before Valencia took command of the game. Two good chances in a row for Maxi Gomez should have gave Valencia a 2-0 lead but the quality wasn't there. Valencia would take the lead anyway though Carlos Soler following a Rodrigo cross. The joy would be short-lived as Chelsea respond quickly with a shot from outside the box via Kovacic.  Parejo is playing the ball forward well and with a high degree of success. When Rodrigo or Ferran receive the ball, they have created danger so far. We need the next chance that falls to Maxi Gomez to be in the back of the net. We know he can score but he's had a sub-par game in terms of scoring thus far.

45' - Batshuyai on for Abraham.
49' - Chelsea goal is struck off since Pulisic is in an offside position. It seems clear but the VAR is taking quite a while to check.
52' - 1-2 Chelsea, VAR has found one angle where the goal is not offside and has given the goal to Chelsea. Garay with a yellow card for protesting.
54' - Yellow card for Azpilicueta for a hand to the face on Jaume Costa.
56' - Rodrigo with a chance after a mistake in the Chelsea defense. The goalkeeper comes out and Rodrigo attempts to chip him but cannot find the back of the net. You can't help but feel that should have been a goal as well.
62' - Penalty for Valencia! Soler plays a through ball to Gaya in the penalty box, Gaya is brought down and the referee calls for a penalty. Parejo steps up.
63' - Parejo is denied, Kepa saves the penalty. The chances are there but the goals today are lacking yet again.
66' - Substitution for Valencia, Gameiro on for Costa. Wass slots back into the right-back position and Gameiro joins the strikers. Costa called for the change following a collision, this is possible another injury.
67' - Cillissen with a good save from a 2 v 1 chance for Chelsea to deny Willian. The flag is raised for offside anyway.
71' - Jorginho off, Emerson on for Chelsea.
72' -  Yellow card for Kante for a heavy challenge on Gaya.
73' - Celades makes a second substitution, Ferran off for Coquelin.
77' - Last change for Valencia, Kang In comes on to replace Soler.
79' - Yellow card for Kepa for wasting time. Final change for Chelsea, Mount on for Willian.
81' - GOAL VALENCIA! 2-2! Daniel Wass with a stunner. The ball was played to Rodrigo at the edge of the box, he steps over the ball, leaving it for Wass out wide. Wass does a half cross half shot and scores in the far post.
86' - Yellow card shown to Paulista for a late challenge on Jason Mount.
89' - A deflected shot from Batsuhuyai had Cillissen fooled but he managed to save it will his trailing leg. Great save.
90' - Seven minutes in additional time signaled by the referee for stoppages.
90+4' - Parejo finds Rodrigo out wide, he cuts inside, takes a shot but it's wide. Almost.
90+5' - I can't believe this. Gaya picks out Rodrigo at the back post and he somehow missed it. What terrible luck today.

FULL-TIME

I don't know what to say. This game, if it was won by amount of chances, would have Valencia superior. Parejo with a penalty, Maxi Gomez with two clear-cut chances from short-range, Rodrigo with several of his own. How has this game ended in a draw? These would all be goals any other day but not this one.

It will be rough to qualify now. Valencia will most likely need a good result against Ajax in the last game of the group stage, while Chelsea need to do the same against Lille. It's clear which one is the tougher task.

Next game is game is the derby against Villareal taking place on Saturday at the Mestalla. Amunt.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

La Liga Matchday #14: Real Betis 2 - 1 Valencia CF Match Thread

The international break is over and Valencia fly to the city of Seville to take on Real Betis for the 14th matchday of La Liga.

The break came at a somewhat convenient time in terms of injuries for Valencia, as they hoped to recuperate some of the players from a growing injury list. In terms of form though, the break came at a moment when the team was in form.

Last game against Granada, the team played the most convincing performance in the second half, getting 3 points, 2 goals and a clean sheet. Wass played a fantastic game all round and even got a goal to show for it. Ferran Torres showed pure quality and talent to score a fantastic solo goal. This performance left Valencia at 9th position with 20 points, 4 points away from the Champions League positions.

Real Betis haven't had a good season so far. They find themselves at 17th, one position away from relegation. Only four points separate them from Celta Vigo below them. Their previous match was a local derby in which they suffered a 1-2 defeat at home to Sevilla. They will certainly look to bounce back in this game. 

Real Betis La Liga form: LDWLL
Valencia La Liga form: WWDLD

LINEUP

Valencia have managed to recover both Rodrigo and Carlos Soler in the break. They both get called in the matchday squad but it remains to be seen if they will actually start.

Two additions in this squad are Escuerdo who appeared last time in the list of midfielders, as well as Javi Jiminez in the list of defenders. Mangala also stays in the squad list. 

What is interesting is that Wass is now listed as midfield in this list, rather than a defender where he normally appears. I wonder if this is a signal that Celades was impressed with Wass's midfield performance from last game and has decided to try it again.


First start and first apperance for Mangala. It seems like Celades and the medical team finally think he's fit enough to play. It will be interesting to see if he can offer something different to Garay who was dropped from the starting XI and is not present on the bench either.

As predicted, Wass appears again in midfield after his performance last game. Jaume Costa takes over his spot in right-back as he has previously. Vallejo gets another start on the left-flank with Ferran Torres on the opposite side. Rodrigo and Maxi Gomez will play the strikers in the 4-4-2.

Bench: Jaume, Correia, Jiminez, Escuerdo, Soler, Kang In, Gameiro

MATCH

17' - Betis players goes down in the box after Mangala jumped above him to head the ball away. Betis fans and players claiming a penalty. The referees and VAR don't agree with their claims. Replay shows that Loren Moren was backing into Mangala
21' - Sidnei is in advanced position and test Cillissen from just inside the penalty area. Cillissen parries it away.
25' - Gaya intercepts a pass in midfield from a Betis player, makes a driving run forward and fires from range. The ball is deflected and a corner is won for Valencia. The delivery is not very good and the play results in a Betis counter attack that is stopped in midfield by Manu Vallejo for a throw in.
27' - Fekir tries another long distance effort, this time a powerful low shot. Cillissen dives down and smothers it.
31' - Yellow card for Real Betis, Gonzalez brought down Maxi Gomez who was starting a counter-attack.
32' - GOAL Valencia! 0-1! Ferran Torres with another moment of brilliance. He cuts inside from a wide position, takes out two defenders and manages to square the ball across for Maxi Gomez while under pressure. Maxi hits the ball cleanly and beats the keeper.
36'- Goal for Betis. 1-1. Alex Moreno goes on a run in space on the left flank, he is met by Jaume Costa's sliding challenge but Moreno goes past him. Paulista moves towards him in an attempt to block his cross but he manages to pick out Joaquin in space and the ball is smashed past Cillissen.
41' - Messy clearance from Valencia to deal with this Betis attack. Cillissen comes out to deal with the effort and attempts to smother the ball, the defender goes down and the ball is loose, it's haphazardly cleared. Some penalty claims but quickly dismissed by VAR.
44' - Fekir goes on a solo run moving past Mangala and shooting between the legs of Gabriel Paulista across Cillissen. The goalkeeper dives and stretches barely getting a hand to keep the game level.

HALF-TIME: Pretty open game with both sides looking to attack and counter-attack. The ball is mostly being driven forward by our wide players. The midfield seems largely ineffective. Wass has had very few touches and often misplaced/overplays the passes forward, causing some good runs to go to waste and relieving Betis from the pressure of the counter-attack. Rodrigo and Ferran are making the runs but the ball barely reaches them. Parejo similarly hasn't had too much impact. The set piece plays just give the ball back to Betis. The goal came from a great moment of inspiration from Ferran Torres to take on defenders and set up Maxi Gomez. The Betis goal came from a hasty sliding challenge from Jaume Costa that was dealt with by Moreno and left him in tons of space to pick out the pass to Joaquin. I would like to see Soler or Kang In come on in midfield to see if the quality of delivery going forward improves. The team usually plays better in the second half. Let's see if this will be true again.

49' - Penalty claim for Betis for a handball on Parejo. If it did happen it would be outside of the box. The referee waves play to go on.
51' - Another counter-attack getting ruined by bad passing. Betis corner is headed into another Betis player and cleared by Mangala. Several Valencia players made the run forward but I believe it was Manu Vallejo who overplayed the pass to make the counter-attack stop.
54' - Gameiro and Soler have begun warming up on the sidelines.
57' - Yellow card for Wass, he uses his arm to drag down Joaquin and stop his run. Free kick Betis. The free kick is player over everyone and straight out of play.
61' - Cillissen with another save, this time at his near post following some quick passing from Betis to set up the chance.
63' - Yellow card for Alex Moreno. He used his shoulder to shove Wass into the ground and stop a counter-attack.
64' - First change for Valencia. Manu Vallejo is taken off, Gameiro is brought on.
68' - Substitution for Betis, Gonzalez off, Iglesias on.
74' - Ferran Torres with a cross. It's blocked by a defender and falls to Parejo at the edge of the box. He has the space to pick out a shot at the top-right corner and the keeper is forced to parry over the goal.
75' - Second change for Valencia, Soler on, Rodrigo off. Soler will play on the left flank and Gameiro will move forward to join Maxi Gomez.
76' - Sidnei is forced off for Betis due to injury. Barragan is his replacement.
80' - Final Betis change, Loren off, Pedraza on.
83' - The amount of loose passes and wasted possession from both team in the last few minutes is quite shocking. It is resulting in a lot of back and forth play, end to end with no final product.
84' - Fekir goes on a solo effort, past Wass and fires from the edge of the box. The ball his the crossbar and bounces back out into play.
86' - Kang In is the final player off the bench for Valencia. Ferran Torres is taken off.
90' - Soler plays the ball out to the left for Kang In, he takes a few touches and takes a shot from an angle and beats the keeper but hits the crossbar. Good effort! Four minutes added for stoppages.
90+2' - Yellow card for Gaya. He went flying into the challenge. Free kick Betis.
90+3' - Goal Betis. 2-1. Canales scores directly from the free kick. Cillissen was completely beaten.

FULL-TIME

Betis clinch the game at the dying minutes and get all 3 points from a game. A draw would have probably been the fairest result given the performance of the two teams and how even the game was. In the end though, they just had that edge to get their goal so late into the game.

Valencia still has many players on the injury list and this lineup is different from the one that Celades would ideally start if all players are available.

The Valencia midfield was largely ineffective and conceded the territory to the Betis midfield. With similar chances and defensive errors, that might have just been the difference between the two sides.

Another good performance from Ferran Torres and another goal for Maxi Gomez leaves the team with some positives to take out of this game. Cillissen had several good saves as well when needed albeit a mistake in the 41st minute was fortunately cleared to avoid the consquence.

Next game is a big one. We're back to the Champions League on Wednesday in a crucial home game against Chelsea. This is the team's chance to secure qualification. I don't know if any more players will be recovered from the injury list by that time so we will likely see a very similar lineup against Chelsea.

The team's qualification to the Champions League earned the club 15 million euros. The club gets 2.7 million euros per win, 900k for every draw and the progression through the group stage into the knockout rounds earns around 9.5 million euros. These prizes are important for the team to allow better business in the transfer windows. Of course, the morale boost for the team and fans would also be huge. Backed by the home fans, the team should have a huge motivation to get a result from the game.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

La Liga Matchday #13: Valencia CF 2 - 0 Granada CF Match Thread

Matchday 13 of La Liga sees Valencia taken on Granada at home. Following the Champions League game against Lille in which Valencia took a 1-1 scoreline to 4-1 in the last 10 minutes or so of the game, Celades will look to build on that. That always has to be the message, move forward and not back.

The team is capable of showing glimpses or sparks of great play but consistency has been lacking. Players show up one match and are missing the next game and so on. Even within the same match there are players that fade in and out of the game. Celades has to harness those glimpses to make a solid team. Discipline and consistency are the key.

Granada is a team that has started this season well. They found themselves sitting in the top 4 for 5 weeks in a row, even ending week 10 as league leaders. They currently sit at 6th at 20 points, 3 points ahead of Valencia who are 13th with 17 points. 

Last matchday Granada lost at home to Real Sociedad in the final minutes of the game.

Valencia La Liga form: WDLDW
Granada La Liga form: LLWWL

LINEUPS

With 7 players out with injury, Valencia's first team of 24 players is left with 17 players. Of course, we need 11 players and 7 on the bench, 18 players total. Celades had to call in Esquerdo from the youth team to complete the squad list. Mangala also is called up again, yet to play a minute. 


It looks like the same 4-4-2 set up we saw last game. There are two changes though. Celades starts Ferran Torres over Kang In Lee on the right. Manu Vallejo starts out on the left where Cheryshev started last game.
Bench: Domench, Mangala, Correia, Jaume Costa, KangIn, Esquerdo, Gameiro

MATCH

6' - Ferran Torres taken out with a rough challenge from behind. Free kick Valencia in a good position. Parejo uses the run of Vallejo as a dummy, and picks out Ferran wide but the resulting cross misses everyone in a white shirt.
9' - Maxi Gomez pressures a Granada player in the Granada half, he wins the ball and makes a run forward, struggling to stay on his feet. Rodrigo makes a run ahead but Maxi decides to shoot on his own to the far post. Tame effort in the end. Rodrigo looks on with disappointment.
12' - Rodrigo receives the ball deep in midfield and drives the ball forward, he spreads the play out wide to Maxi Gomez on the left and continues his run expecting the ball back. Gomez makes the cross but chooses the run of Wass instead. The ball is too close to the goal line and Wass cannot keept it in.
20' - Maxi Gomez seems to always be drifting to and receiving the ball in wide positions. I don't know if that's really effective.
22' - Parejo with a corner but misses everyone. Vallejo manages to take the ball off the Granada player at the edge of the box and tries a shot but it's wide.
36' - Kondogbia picks up an injury and is subbed off, Jaume Costa comes on. We now have no CDM's. Wass moves to midfield, in right-back.
38' - Yellow card for Granada's Gonalons for a late challenge on Maxi Gomez. Free kick in a decent position if we can get good delivery. The delivery is to Paulista but he collides heads with a Granada player, leaving them both on the ground.
44' - Another yellow card for Granada for Azeez. Late challenge on Dani Parejo.
45' - Three minutes of additional time.
45+1' - Gaya makes a run forward, passes to Wass in the center. He takes one touch and fires from distance forcing the keeper to stretch and save the shot. Good effort.

HALF-TIME: Pretty even half so far. Neither side had the edge. Lots of back and forth but lack of clear chances. Granada is letting Valencia play wide all they want but packing the central area with defenders. It will be tough to break down. It's a shame that Kondogbia left the field with injury but it will be an interesting opportunity to test out Jaume Costa in right-back. The struggle so far is the final ball. Parejo's delivery from set pieces hasn't been all that good recently. Rodrigo and Maxi Gomez can't seem to find each other on attacking transitions either. Second half performances are usually better so let's hope that happens again today.

46' - Two half-chances already for Valencia, one from Rodrigo, one from Maxi Gomez. Both were dealt with by the Granada defense.
50' - Rodrigo takes a knock and tells the medical team he cannot continue. He leaves for the tunnel, and Gameiro is brought on to replace him.
55' - GOAL Valencia! 1-0! Build up starts with Wass. He controls and makes a short pass to Parejo who finds Ferran out wide. Ferran plays the ball to Gameiro who has his back to the defender. He shields the ball and then returns it to Ferran. Ferran finds Parejo at the edge of the box who passes it into the net. VAR is checking if Maxi Gomez is interfering with play from an offside postion by blocking the keeper's vision.
58' - OVER-RULED. Referee checks the decision and overrules his initial goal decision. 0-0.
60' - Quini blocks Gaya's cross with his arms. Free kick but strangely no yellow card. It's a good position from the left edge of the box. Parejo goes directly for goal but it's easy for the keeper.
63' - Change for Granada, Gonalons off, Montoro on.
65' - Valencia with long periods of possession in the Granada half but the goal still eludes them.
71' - Vallejo with some quick feet tries to pass between two defenders but they obstruct him and he wins a free kick. Valencia getting so many set pieces around the box.
72' - Parejo's free kick hits the wall and out of play for a corner. The corner is headed out for another one.
73' - GOAL Valencia! 1-0! It's Daniel Wass's goal. Gaya's cross is headed away but falls to Gamiero on the opposite side. Gameiro puts in a cross of his own, Maxi Gomez can't get to it but Wass controls it and beats the keeper at his near post by firing the ball into the roof of the net. Good goal but VAR is checking again for a Maxi Gomez interference from an offside position as well as a potential handball from Wass. VAR gives the goal this time.
76' - Yellow card for Quini for a hand to the face on Vallejo. If he received a yellow for the handball earlier, he would be off.
79' - Granada keeps resorting to fouls to stop play. With all these stoppages and VAR checks, there will be quite significant additional time.
80' - Final change for Granada, Carlos Neva off for Carlos Fernandez.
83' - Great link up between Gameiro and Vallejo. Gameiro receives the ball and takes out a defender with a pirouette, plays a short ball ahead of Vallejo and continues his run. Vallejo returns the ball to him but he is pressured off it by the Granada defense.
84' - Final change for Valencia. Vallejo goes down and signals to the bench that he wants to come off. It seems he's fine to walk. Meanwhile Cillissen comes out and punches away the Granada free kick.
86' - Vallejo goes down again. He walks off and Kang In Lee comes on his place. All substitutions used for both teams.
88' - Yellow card for Montorro for dissent against the referee.
90' - Corner for Granada following a deflected shot from Soldado. The delivery is to the near post, it's flicked towards the far post and it's going in but Wass clears it away from goal. Seven minutes of additional time.
90+2' - Another yellow card for Granada, this time for Herrera for a raised arm on Dani Parejo as they were both contesting an aerial ball.
90+4' - Even this late on, Valencia is pressing for the ball and frustrating Granada. Maxi handles the ball in midfield, free kick for Granada. It is launched into the penalty area but cleared.
90+5' - Valencia move on the counter, 3 on 1. KangIn on the ball, Ferran and Gameiro making runs. Kang In plays a throughball for Ferran, the keeper comes out, Ferran finds Gameiro who walks the ball into the net. It is ruled offside for the initial pass to Ferran.
90+7' - GOAL Valencia! 2-0! Ferran Torres scores yet again. Cillissen launches the ball out wide to him with a throw right to the half-way line. He makes a sublime run, cuts inside taking out the Granada defenders one by one and fires from the edge of the box right into the top left corner. That's what this young man can do. That's why he's on the 10-man short list for the U-20 Golden Ball.

FINAL THOUGHTS

That second half sure brought the intensity that was needed. This half Valencia looked great. They gave Granada nothing and frustrated them over and over. Granada resorted to fouls in their frustration and got booked over and over.

While moving Wass to midfield was done through necessity due Kondogbia's injury, he would prove instrumental in this second half. He looked good in midfield and found himself in the right position to receive the ball and produced the quality to beat the keeper at his near post. He also a good defensive contribution, clearing a shot on goal in the last minute following a Granada corner.

Valencia kept up the intensity and with Granada seeking an equalizer they left many spaces behind. Valencia would score again but the pass from KangIn to Ferran in the build up was slightly offside.

Ferran would then go on a fantastic solo goal, started by a quick throw from Cillissen to him on the half-way line. He showed real speed, agility, technique and great quality to score.

This is the 4th clean sheet for Valencia in 17 games in all competitions. Mallorca, Bilbao, Chelsea were the fixtures this season where this has happened before.

On top of this, the game finished without a single booking for Valencia. No disciplinary issues.

The team had to make all 3 substitutions due to injury/discomfort. Luckily following this there is an international break to rest some of the players and recover many others.

The play certainly is improving and I would say this second half performance is probably the most convincing performance so far by the team. At no point did I feel that Granada posed a major threat. Their only real chance was the corner effort which was cleared by Wass. The next step would be to extend such a performance to the whole game.

As of this post, this win leaves the team on 20 points and in 7th place. There are still games left in this matchday of course, so this is subject to change.

Next game is on Saturday, the 23rd of November away to Real Betis. Amunt!

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

UEFA Champions League Group Stage: Valencia CF 4 - 1 LOSC Lille Match Thread

Celades called this game the "biggest match of the season" for Valencia CF. A win here would put the team in good standing to qualify from this group. Anything else, would make qualification increasingly difficult. Valencia have three games left in this group. Lille then Chelsea, and finally Ajax. Home, home again, then away.

Cheryshev's goal that game was a beautiful team effort: Wass to Parejo to Gomez to Gameiro to Cheryshev goal. Then, Diakhaby picked up two yellow cards in the span of just as many minutes, got sent off, and Lille put the pressure on. With the red card and a 6 minutes of additional time in which Lille equalized in the 90+5th minute and rescued a point. This game should be different. Playing at home, and barring any red cards, I think Valencia can win.

Lille come into the game with a 2-1 away loss to Marseille. Valencia come into this game following a 2-1 comeback away from home against Espanyol.

LINEUP

The biggest surprise on the matchday lineup? Mangala has finally been called. It's difficult to say though if that means he's fully ready or this is just a precaution. After all, with Diakhaby out due to suspension, only Paulista and Garay are available as center-backs. Coquelin has played there under Marcelino, but he is also out with an injury. That only leaves Mangala. Then again, there were reports that the plan was always to have him ready by November, and here we are. We'll see but I don't expect him to start.

Alright, so Diakhaby is suspended, Coquelin is injured. Other players still recovering from injuries are Piccini, Soler, Sobrino and Guedes.

Returning from injury, Gameiro joins the list of forwards. He is a very welcome addition, especially having set up a few goals for his fellow strikers this seasons including in the last game against Lille.



Minor changes in the starting XI this game compared to the game against Espanyol. Gaya starts this time, after being rested last game. He did come on but only in the last few minutes due to an foreseen injury to Sobrino. Ferran, who started last game, finds himself on the bench, with his spot occupied by Kang In. It's looking like a 4-4-2 to start.

Bench: Jaume, Mangala, Costa, Correia, Ferran, Vallejo, Gameiro

MATCH

6' - Handball claim on Kondogbia at the edge of the Valencia penalty area. Referee correctly calls it as not a handball.
8' - Lille with a tame shot on goal from distance, easy for Cillissen.
11' - Gabriel with a rough challenge on Kang In, referee whistles for a free kick. Parejo goes for a short ball to Gaya out wide, who then crosses to Kondogbia. He couldn't make a clean contact but referee says he was offside anyway.
13' - Lille player jumps with great momentum and slams right through Rodrigo from behind. Foul but no booking.
15' - Kondogbia dispossesses a Lille player and drives the ball forward, he picks out Cheryshev who has Rodrigo making a supporting run. The Russian decides to fire from distance rather than pick out his teammate. The shot is easily claimed by the Lille keeper.
18' - Dangerous early cross from Lille into the box, Paulista got a slight touch taking it away from the opposing player. The counter was started after miscommunication and mistiming in the linkup between Wass and Kang In on the right flank.
20' - Parejo is dispossessed, setting up a chance for Remy in the penalty box. Kondogbia with a great sliding challenge to block his shot.
25' - 0-1. Goal for Lille. Parejo with a terrible causal pass that is blocked by a Lille player and falls to Osimhen who found space between the Valencia defenders. He beats them for pace and slots the ball past Cillissen.
30' - More bad news for Valencia. Cheryshev is forced off the field of play after being examined by the Valencia medical team. This adds to the injury troubles this season. Ferran Torres is the replacement. He quickly wins a corner.
31' - Parejo's corner finds Gabriel Paulista, but his header is headed away from goal by the opposing defender. Kondogbia tumbles to the ground during that corner. Garay due to dissent against the referee. Yellow card.
34' - Handball against Lille, free kick Valencia. The keeper claims it before anybody else.
35' - Ferran linking up with Wass. The latter puts in a cross to Kang In. The header is on target but the keeper smothers it. Rodrigo was waiting for any spills by the keeper.
37' - Kang In and Andre clash as they challenge for the ball. Kang In gets there first and they both falls to ground as they collide. Andre gets booked. Yellow card.
38' - Rodrigo's through ball to Maxi is blocked, the ball falls to Kang In who tries at an angle just inside the box. It's blocked again.
40' - Valencia with another give-away this time Wass is the culprit. Soumare intercepts his pass, finds Remy. The shot comes from distance towards the top left corner but Cillissen keeps it out. Valencia creating many of their own problems, as the commentator puts it.
44' - So close. The best chance for Valencia. Parejo to Rodrigo to Kang In, he fakes the defender with a shot but picks out Gaya instead. The cross is for Rodrigo but his effort is right at the keeper. The ball is spilled back to Ferran, whose shot is deflected. Corner.
45' - Rodrigo with another chance from the corner but again the keeper saves.

HALF-TIME: Possession is being wasted so much this game with these tame crosses, and others that go straight towards the keeper. Lots of individual mistakes and carelessness giving away possession as well. This resulted in the Lille goal. Valencia could have rescued an equalizer and a confidence boost in the last 2 minutes of the half with 2 chances for Rodrigo but both shots were claimed by the keeper. Play needs to improve big time in the second half. This is not good enough. Kondogbia and Lee have been the source of the good in this half. Rodrigo is very involved also but is really missing the final touch.

54' - Second change for Valencia, Kang In off for Vallejo.
63' - Handball from Jose Fonte in the penalty box! Referee calls penalty! VAR check, and it's confirmed penalty for Valencia and yellow card for Fonte.
65' - GOAL Valencia! 1-1! Parejo equalizes with a penalty kick.
67' - Wass booked for a push on a Lille player. Yellow card.
74' - First change for Lille, Yazici for Renato Sachez
80' - Bradaric is booked by the referee. Another yellow card for Lille. Andre off, Araujo on for Lille.
81' - 2-1! Valencia are back in front! Paulista with a fantastic ball over the defense to Gaya. The defender made a mess of clearing it. Gaya gets into a good postion and his low cross finds its way into the net! The goal is recorded as an own goal though.
83' - It's now 3-1! Kondogbia with an absolute beauty. Parejo plays the ball to him in midfield he takes a few touches towards the box and smashes into the top left corner.
89' - Would you believe it's now 4-1? When is the last time the team scored 4 in one game. Rodrigo picks up the ball in midfield and plays a fantastic through ball for Ferran. He takes one touch, looks up and finishes to the top left corner. 
90' - 2 minutes of additional time. Final change for Lille, Bamba on for Soumaoro. Valencia bring on Gameiro for Rodrigo.

FINAL THOUGHTS

This was quite a strange game. No one could have expected this scoreline at all, especially not after the first half.

There was a huge difference between the team that played the last 10 minutes and the one that played the game prior to that. 

This scoreline is kind of misleading for the way the team played. There still remains huge areas of improvement. The wasted possession, misplaced passes and miscommunication in the first half were way too frequent and some even in dangerous positions. For a game described by the coach as "the most important" of the season. Those first 80 minutes were far from the performance that such an occasion deserved. 

This could also be a moment where the team clicks. Another comeback, a vengeance for last game of some sorts, and 4 goals to boot. 

Kondogbia had a great game. He helped his defense when needed and also helped drive the ball forward. He scored goals in previous seasons from distance but recently he barely even attempts shooting. This one was amazing and much needed to lift the whole stadium. 

This game leaves Valencia in a 3-way tie on points with Ajax and Chelsea, 7 points each. With tie-breakers, Valencia still sit at 3rd. The team has a good change to go through but it all depends on the next two games which will both be tough. The home game against Chelsea is the one that people point to being the game to qualify. 

Next game is on Saturday, at Mestalla, against Granada.