Saturday, January 21, 2017

Villarreal 0-2 Valencia

Voro vete ya!

Take my advice Mr Salvador "Voro" González and leave now before grateful Valencia fans chain you to the Mestalla to stop you leaving. Valencia's super-sub coach has done it again, galvanising the team and showing that last week's performance against Espanyol wasn't a one-off.

What helped was that, with the exception of Rodrigo, Valencia had almost all their players available. Selectionwise, Voro opted for a fairly familiar line-up. Cancelo was selected rather than Montoya at the back,as the latter has some small injury concerns. Garay and Mangala were able to play together for the first time since November. Soler is clearly now a first team regular, displacing Mario Suarez. The main selection question was whether Zaza would start. Voro opted not to. Zaza hasn't played a competitive game in a while, so I guess the idea is to ease him back.

Valencia began in committed fashion, pressuring and winning an early free kick from which Parejo forced a save. It was a hard fought early first half after that with both teams creating half chances, with Mina and Munir both missing for Valencia and Pato shooting just over for Villarreal. After the first 30 minutes the score was still level, with Villarreal just edging the play, but then the tide turned. Nani beat his man on the wing, sped on and with the next defender backing off, put a decent ball across for Soler to slot home. Villarreal looked rattled and Valencia had found a decent rhythm. Confident, keeping possession, no mistakes, solid marking and lots of quick touch passing. We knew this team had this in them. Where has it been all season?

It didn't end there. From a ball from Soler, Mina won a header, pressured the defender into a backpass and then showed great commitment to chase the keeper down and score after an awful mistake from the keeper. Valencia had a two-goal lead at half time for the first time this season.

The second half would mostly see Villarreal butting their head fruitlessly against a solid wall of Valencia players. All the back four were doing well, with Mangala in particular a rock in the air. I'm so used to writing negative things in these match reports, that it's a hard habit to break, but there was little negative here to write. It would be good to see Valencia not sitting back so much if they're ahead, but if they don't concede, who cares? Also, I didn't really get the Zaza substitution. We only have 9 games in which to assess him before we have to buy him. Wouldn't it be better to give him at least 70 minutes in order to properly judge him?

All in all, though, it feels really wrong to say anything negative after such a decent performance. 2-0 away against one of the top six, local derby bragging rights and the first clean sheet this season. It might be too early to draw conclusions, but there does seem to be an uptick. Since November, in La Liga, we've won two, drawn two and lost one, but in both the draws and defeat, we conceded the decisive goal in injury time. Bring on Las Palmas!

PLAYER RATINGS

Alves 7.5 - was mostly screened by a solid defence, but made the saves when he had to
Cancelo 7 - for once, better at the back than as a winger
Garay 7 - very solid, made great interceptions and was faultless in his marking
Mangala 8.5 - one of the big man's best performances, strong in the air and on the ground
Gaya 6.5 - was limited to a defensive role, but managed to close the space well
Enzo 7 - great job covering the defence, would get a higher score if he toned down his aggression, playing like this he'd get a red card with some refs
Parejo 6 - quiet game, but worked well with the team and no mistakes
Soler 7.5 - excellent first goal and another confident performance
Mina 7.5 - good to see him back to form, I may yet win my moneyless bet against Kerry Caitlin!
Munir 7 - good running up front, created a few chances and helped out well with covering the defence
Nani 8 - super game, especially in the first half, is in the top ten in La Liga for number of assists

Subs (all unrated due to lack of time)

Suarez - nothing to complain about, but his time at Valencia is surely limited now, with Soler's emergence
Zaza - think we should have brought Bakkali on instead. Zaza looks a strong, physical player. Best of luck to him.
Montoya - hope he's back soon, has been playing well of late.

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