A hard-fought draw in the end for Valencia CF, and Rayo would feel hard-done by the result as they were dominant for huge portions of the game.
Neville had some players returning from injuries that he could finally field today with Mustafi and Andre Gomes in the lineup. Cancelo started as left-back with Barragan on the opposite side and a central duo of Santos and Mustafi. Ahead of them Parejo, Gomes and Danilo with Rodrido, Negredo and Mina in attack.
The first half of the game was almost complete Rayo dominance, in fact they would create a chance from the opening minutes of the game as they hit the cross bar. This would go on for most of the first half as Rayo dominated possession and create multiple chances. If it was a bigger team, most of those would've gone in and we would be down 2-3 goals in the first half. They did manage to score one though as a cross from the right found its way to Jozabed who buried it in the back of the net. It was 3 Rayo players to 5 Valencia players in the box and still he managed to find the space and time to finish. Only Mustafi moved and even then it was a slow reaction. Barragan and Santos on the other hand stood and watched. There was no attempt to block the cross or stop the effort. Parejo and Danilo who had ran back to support the defense in the box were also bystanders. Note the cross came from Rayo's right wing, where Cancelo was out of position
Valencia CF were lucky Rayo didn't score again at the beginning of the second half with continuing Rayo possession. It was very painful to watch, nobody was making the effort to stop or intercept passes, or pressure opposing players. One exception at the time was Negredo. Following a close Rayo effort that was cleared to the midfield, Negredo wrestled the Rayo player in possesion off the ball and, spotting the keeper off his line, attempted a shot from the center of the pitch which sailed into the Rayo net. It should be noted that Negredo hardly did much the whole game but for this one moment where he had the confidence to try this shot. Neville tried to go for fresh legs bringing on Piatti and Alcacer for Mina and Negredo. A few minutes later, a Rayo corner falls to Diego Llorente who, yet again, has the time and space to volley the ball into the net. Again, no one was marking. Diego Llorente is a big player, and those are usually the most tightly marked in the box during set pieces. But the defenders tonight felt it not important to go after him and allowed him to, not head, but volley the ball into the top corner.
That goal woke up Valencia, or at least the attacking players as they would strike on the counter quickly bringing a period of Valencia dominance lead by Andre Gomes and the incoming Bakkali. It would be Rodrigo though who finds Alcacer with a great through ball and the Spanish International would bury the ball in the net. However, the referee calls it offside when it's nowhere near offside. Another ripoff, another blunder by the referees and for some reason it's mostly against us. Aside from that incident, this referee stopped the game too many times and barely let the game flow IMO. Nearing the 90 minute mark, a Valencia attacking play finds Bakkali who skillfully cross the ball to meet Alcacer foot perfectly tieing it up at 2-2. With 4 additional minutes added, it was anybody's game with the advantage to Valencia who had just scored and the momentum was with them. However, Rayo really wanted the point and the time wasting tactics began. Rayo is well known for possesion football and it Valencia could hardly win the ball off them. You can't really complain about time wasting, team's do it all the time, no matter how big or small. It's a strategy that pressures and frustrates opposition. However, Rayo chose the digusting route and were time wasting by doing stupid things like trying to hit the ball out of Ryan's hands. Nothing by the referee against that.
I know we're talking a lot about referees these days but it's really hard not to when you see these things. It's clear that some teams gets away with things. Today for example, a Sporting player got past Ronaldo, so Ronaldo kicks him in the thigh. You could watch the replay and he didn't even go for the ball, the ball was too far and he wasn't anywhere close to getting it. Not red? That's pushing it. But not even a yellow? Outrageous.
Anyway, back to Valencia. The game ended 2-2 and it was quite disappointing. I mean Rayo's a good team at their best and I have respect for them but they are in the top relegation spot and have had a poor run this season, even losing 10-2 to Real Madrid. Of course, I'm not expecting us to beat them by that margin but a win should've been the least requirement.
Who's fault is it? I believe in no way or form it's Neville's fault. I mean he's changed the team for the better and it's clear. There are fundamental parts of the game that were wrong under Nuno but have improved under Neville. I believe a few specific players are in the wrong but due to lack of alternatives we are forced to play them week-in week-out. Barragan and Santos are two names that come to mind. I can forgive one mistake in one game that costs us. But we already have Abdennour struggling and now those two, our defense is in terrible shape. We are forced to play Cancelo as left back due to Gaya's injury and Orban's terrible form. I mean playing him as right-back is bad enough cause he should be a right winger but due to circumstances, he's forced to play there. Again, not Neville's fault but due to lack of alternatives. I mean Barragan, Santos and Piatti are players that barely contribute this season and they are experienced players and as such this is unacceptable. Someone like Danilo on the other hand who also has bad performances, lacks that experience and that can be excused. And it's not a matter of they're trying but they're just having a bad day, they are barely putting in the effort. It's clear that there is going to be another change in the team players but it's probably going to happen in the summer and not now. At most, I can see one new signing for Valencia this window. And even that is in doubt so far.
0 - 1 Jozabed (16')
1 - 1 Negredo (56')
1 - 2 Diego Llorente (69')
2-2 Paco Alcacer (89')
Ryan (6) - Nothing he can do about the two goals, when the defense has that many openings it makes your job that much more difficult. Pulled out a great triple save to keep the game from getting away from Valencia
Cancelo (4) - Decent in attack, left many openings in defense. Played significantly better on the right that the left.
Mustafi (4) - Coming back from injury to a defense filled with problems. Only one who even attempted to stop efforts.
Santos (1) - Inexcusable, should be called a stander not a defender, more standing around than defending.
Barragan (1) - Seems like he's lost the will to play, slow, sluggish, will barely need a shower after the game.
Danilo (3) - Invisible for huge portions of the game and is really not suited to playing CDM, but again due to injury/form crisis he ends up doing it.
Gomes (7) - Glad to have him back, one of the only players who had the desire to win every minute of the game.
Parejo (5) - Really tired and barely moving, really needs a rest. Maybe play de Paul as back up.
Rodrigo (5.5) - Decent play, had a few shots on goal. However was somewhat selfish at times and should've passed to players in more dangerous positions.
Mina (4) - A few games of magic, but the magic seems to have died out.
Negredo (5.5) - Quiet for majority of the game but what a goal!
Piatti (5) - Slightly better work rate than in previous games but still not much impact.
Bakkali (6.5) - Clearly, Neville wants to use him more to exploit tired legs at the end of the game and that's why he doesn't start games. Instant impact sub and great cross for Paco's goal.
Paco (7) - The man is lethal, two chances since coming on, and buried both but one was disallowed unjustly.
Neville (6) - Really difficult to give him a rating since he has to deal with all these injuries and poor form. The changes he made though had an instant impact, definitely knows what he's doing but clearly frustrated with lack of effort from some players as well as lack of a win in the league thus far.
We're on the brink of a form crisis if we're not in one already. Great cup performances but the league perfomances leave a lot to be desired in the last few games at least. We're already in an injury crisis but it will soon come to an end. Diego Alves should be back in 2 weeks, Gaya and Feghouli should be next week or the next. Huge boosts for the team no doubt. I believe we can also restore our form. Our next four games in the league are to Deportivo, Sporting Gijon, Betis and Espanyol. All winnable games. Although it's hard to believe in winnable games at the moment, all it takes is one win to build momentum. Also the mid week games for the Copa del Rey quarter finals are against Las Palmas. Again very winnable games. Let's see where this goes.
P.S. I missed the first half so anything that happened then I write about from what I heard from the commentary team or I've seen in the highlights. If and when the match replay comes out, I'll see what I can adjust.