Valencia CF suffered a devastating defeat at home against guests FC Zenit, in a match that was a must win for us. If we can't win at home at the Mestalla, the away trips are going to be even tougher and this might be an intro into what is to come for us.
Overall the team didn't play bad, sure the chances were hard to come by and the team was mostly relegated to try long range crosses and that didn't work with only Negredo and occasionally Piatti in the penalty area against 4 or 5 defenders there. This was pretty much the first half of the match, Valencia CF the possession, had the control, were the ones attacking and it was on counter attacks that FC Zenit exposed our defense and managed to capitalize on individual mistakes.
The first goal shouldn't have happened if Fuego was positioned better, he wasn't positioned next to Danny and had to run towards him from behind, by which time he passed the ball to Hulk who was also left with plenty of space to have a clear shot on goal. Joan Cancelo was too slow to close him down, allowed a shot to happen and Hulk scored. It didn't help that Jaume wasn't positioned perfectly, if Diego Alves was on goal I have no doubt he would have saved that shot and prevented a goal.
So clearly individual mistakes happening, even though the team was playing good overall, with chances hard to come by, but FC Zenit were defending good, they positioned themselves great and we couldn't really penetrate them. It was mostly Sofiane Feghouli that was doing work for us on the left flank, he was putting in cross after cross, pass after pass, but no one was there on the end of it.
Just before half time, another counter attack by FC Zenit and another goal. They literally had 2 chances and scored two goals. Once again I didn't like Javi Fuego position, he was way too forward and couldn't block the attack before it happened. This left Mustafi and Cancelo exposed and once again Cancelo failing to properly close down Hulk, he just allowed him plenty of space once again, and once again his shot ended up in the net. As with the first goal, the same mistakes for the second goal and it didn't help that Jaume was too weak to block the shot. Once again it was a savable shot, yes it was a powerful shot and yes it shouldn't have happened in the first place if Fuego and Cancelo had played well, but if we had Diego Alves or even Ryan the shot might have been blocked, it was a great shot, but one that was savable by a top tier goalkeeper.
So Valencia CF controlled the match, the possession, there were some penetrating runs as well, some crosses, Piatti and Parejo had opportunities to score, it wasn't like the team was playing bad overall.
The second half Nuno made 2 changes from the start, he brought in Gomes and Paco in place of Fuego and Piatti and instantly Paco Alcacer scored a goal, unfortunately the goal was disallowed.
With Andre Gomes on we had more chances, the team played more offensively and we actually saw the Jose Luis Gaya that we know and want, a player who bombarded on that left flank, time and time again he was doing work on that left flank and providing crosses, passes, link-up play with Gomes and really causing trouble for the Zenit defense.
It would be in the 51st minute when Valencia CF would score a goal, Joao Cancelo foung himself in open space, ran from the wing towards the goal and what seemed to be an intention of cross, ended up being a shot. Personally I didn't see anyone really deflect the shot, so I'm giving this one as a goal for Cancelo, rather than an own goal.
Valencia CF had few more opportunities as well, several near misses, some decent crosses that could have resulted in goals with maybe better positioning in attack and overall just all out attacking to try and equalize the score. Thankfully Valencia CF ended up equalizing the score, it was Andre Gomes with the goal after some good footwork to get past his market and shot a powerful low target shot that beat FC Zenit goalkeeper Yuri. It was good form from Gaya as well who provided him with the assist.
Unfortunately with the hysteria of having equalized and desperately wanting to still score, the team played too forward, they didn't slow down the game, they didn't reorganize having equalized and still having enough time to patiently score another goal, they pushed forward as if we were still trying not to lose and once again FC Zenit caught them off guard. It was another counter attack, with Aymen covering in the midfield, meaning there was no one left to cover from hi, Gaya was still running back from attack, Enzo was positioned too centrally and I think it was Parejo who ended up covering in defense, but clearly not properly since Alex Witsel made it 3-2 for Zenit.
Once again a counter attack, once again a long range shot that ended up in the net. I hate to say it, but where was Jaume this time as well? I can't blame him too much, its clear that his defense failed him big time in all three goals, but he didn't make one single stop, he had to react three times in the whole game and he failed all three times.
It just something that in the back of my head I'm thinking if we had a more experienced goalkeeper in such an important match, we might have not conceded 3 times from 3 chances.
Realistically FC Zenit didn't play at all, they barely had the ball at their feet and most of there attack were stopped dead in their tracks, but the three times they had decent counter attack, they scored three times. With that kind of slack defending we can't expect to win against anyone.
So yeah, the team tried to score another goal till the end, there was also a potential penalty as Cancelo was brought down by a push just on the line of the penalty area, but it wasn't given.
So there you have it, the first match in the Champions league and its a devastating loss and its an even tougher one because the team did play good, the overall play was good, the team did create chances even if they weren't as clear cut as one would like them to be and the players showed strong character to keep fighting being 2 goals down and did manage to come back, did manage to score two goals and equalize, it was all undone and it was all ruined by really poor defending through individual mistakes mostly.
Valencia CF: Jaume, Cancelo, Mustafi, Abdennour, Gayá, Javi Fuego (Andre Gomes, m. 45), Enzo Pérez, Parejo, Feghouli (Rodrigo, m.71), Piatti (Alcácer, m.45), Negredo.
FC Zenit: Lodygin, Ankuyov (Neto, m.77), Garay, Lombaerts, Criscito, Javi García, Danny, Witsel, Smolnikov (Shatov, m.69), Dzyuba (Fayzulin, m.58), Hulk.
Hulk 0-1; 9 min. Assist Danny
Hulk 0-2; 44 min. Assist Artem Dzyuba
Joao Cancelo 1-2; 54 min.
Andre Gomes 2-2; 73 min. Assist Jose Luis Gaya
Alex Witsel 2-3; 76 min. Assist Oleg Shatov
Jaume 5 - Not to blame directly for any of the goals, but it seems to me that he could have saved at least one of those goals if he was either better positioned or faster to react. Can't help but think a Diego Alves would have saved at least one of those, if not all three.
Cancelo 5 - Bombarded down the right flank, provided crosses, passes, linked-up well with Feghouli and scored a goal to put Valencia CF back in the game, but his defensive mistakes were huge and can't be overlooked, allowed Hulk too much space twice from which he scored.
Mustafi 5.5 - Made a mess with Cancelo for the second goal, he wasn't covering anyone, just went back deep and left Cancelo to close down Hulk, which obviously backfired.
Aymen 5.5 - Similar performance as Mustafi, had few good tackles to cleanly win back the ball, was forced to get out in midfield to mark a Zenit player, but that left his position exposed and the third Zenit goal happened. Was somewhat questionable position.
Gaya 8 - Now this is the kind of performance I personally expect from Gaya, wasn't too involved in attack in the first half, but kept his flank secured and then just bombarded time and time again in the second half, providing good crosses and passes, linking up really well with Gomes and providing the assist for Gomes second goal.
Fuego 3.5 - Match to forget for him, couldn't shield the defense, was caught out of position time and time again and just slowed down the play in midfield too much and didn't contribute in an offensive manner.
Parejo 6.5 - He is the hearth in midfield, pretty much every forward pass goes through him, always available for a pass, always spreading the ball and pushing the team forward, good individual performance from the captain.
Enzo 5.5 - Was actually really offensive in this match, at least in the first half and ran down the left flank often, combining with Gaya and Piatti, fell back in midfield to receive passes as well and overall good movement. Was suspect defensively in the second half though and was badly positioned to cover in defense for the 3rd Zenti goal.
Feghouli 6.5 - The only player in the first half to truly trouble Zenit, beat his marker often and provided numerous crosses and passes into the penalty area, he did his job as best he could and it was other players fault and tactical error if there are no players in the penalty area to get on a pass or a cross.
Negredo 5 - I'm sure he was bought as a big reinforcement that would guarantee Valencia CF at least one goal per match or at least close to that, but even with improved form this season he is nowhere near the level where the team needs him to be. Was mostly on the periphery of the action.
Piatti 5.5 - Just didn't seem too effectual, went inside the penalty area which I liked and tried to get on to a few crosses and passes, but his small stature worked against him when trying to beat few Zenit defenders. Taken off at half time.
Gomes 6.5 - Made a world of difference when he came on in the second half and his direct running and dribbling skills caused a lot of problems for the Zenit defense, in combination with Gaya the left flank became extremely dangerous. Scored a great goal as well.
Paco 5.5 - Made more impact than Negredo, even scored a goal that was disallowed, created more danger in the penalty area and just his presence there allowed other VCF players more space.
Moreno N/A - Not enough time to make any impact, but didn't seem like an improvement over Feghouli from his short time on the field.