Tonight saw the last game of 2016 for Valencia. Probably the team's worst calendar year since the dark days of the 1980s comes to an end and in familiar fashion. Yet another game when Valencia are unable to convert their dominance over a weak opponent into a convincing win. How many times have we seen that?
Prior to the game there was the Parejo controversy. Whether for that or for the fact he's played almost every minute, he wasn't selected for this game.
Otherwise, Prandelli went with a fairly familiar line-up, with the only changes being ones forced due to injuries. In many ways it was a disappointingly conservative line-up, especially with the team 3-1 up from the first leg. What has Bakkali got to do to earn a start? And surely this would have been an ideal opportunity to blood at least one of the youngsters such as Soler, Lato or Mir?
Valencia were dominant in the first half. Rodrigo in particular was everywhere, but as ever, we saw the best and worst of him: tireless running and great positioning, but missing at least 3 good chances in the first 12 minutes, hitting the post twice,in the last case, despite it being from an angle, he should have scored. Medran skied the resulting rebound.
The midfield was doing a bit better in this game and finally the goal came, Medran put through a decent pass, Rodrigo turned well and fired home. A warning shot came soon after, though, as a lack of concentration saw Leganes with their first chance of the game, which hit the side netting.
The half ended with Rodrigo almost getting on the end of a through ball and Mina shooting over from distance.
Same old story in the second part. You almost know how it goes from here. Valencia couldn't sustain their dominance and soon into the half, Leganes, who had done diddly squat up to then managed to equalise, a single player seeming to run through four of our players while the defensive midfielders were nowhere to be seen. There were protests about handball, but it looked mostly legitimate to me. It was a mostly even half after that, with Valencia giving Leganes too much time to create chances rather than killing the game off.
The introductions of Mir and Soler in particular, provided a decent shot in the arm, but the team looked shaky and very different from that which we'd seen in the first half. There were chances for both sides but, towards the end, Medran played another decent ball to Soler who made a strong run through their defence and, after his shot had been blocked, Rodrigo followed up to score.
Though it's nice to win 2-1 and go through 5-2 on aggregate, this is another game which leaves a real sense of disappointment. The familiar pattern was there: dominate, score, stop playing, give away soft goals and look shaky. If the team had taken their chances.... if they'd maintained their early dominance. As usual, the post-match thoughts are on "if onlys" rather than celebrating a positive result. The draw for the next round is on Friday with the next round on 4 January, Valencia's first game of what could be a make or break year for the Lim project.
Jaume 5 - Had little to do in the first half but didn't look fully convincing in the second and should have done better for the goal.
Montoya 5 - average performance and was overtaken a few times, with many of their attacks coming on his side.
Santos 4.5 - didn't inspire and looked out of sorts. There was one telling moment in the second half where he assumed the ball was going out and switched off. They kept it in and put in a dangerous cross .
Mangala 6.5 - covered well for others but can't be everywhere. It's a shame that he's almost certainly out of our price range next summer when his loan expires.
Cancelo 6 - better off playing as..... you know the rest.
Suarez 5 - was doing ok in the first period, but it all went south after they scored. Can we get Fuego back?
Enzo 6 - same as ever, decent first half then looked sluggish after the break
Medran 7.5 - great game, put through a number of decent balls
Mina 4.5 - his underperforming season continued with this game.
Rodrigo 7.5 - this is an average of two scores: for tireless running and effort and positioning it's a ten, for finishing a five. I can only reiterate what I've said many times. It's high time we cut this guy some slack: in the club's worst season in three decades, he's scored five goals in the last eight games and has averaged more goals per game this season to date than Alcacer did the previous three. He still needs to improve his finishing, but he is not any worse than strikers we've had in recent seasons.
Munir 5.5 - unable to make much of an impact and was constantly fouled, with many of these going unpunished.
Soler 7.5 - great debut at the Mestalla and nice assist. As we've all said, deserves more playing time.
Mir 4.5 - failed to take his opportunity tonight and is likely to remain a fringe player at best
Gaya N/A - unclear why he didn't start. Fitness issue?