Valencia faced their city rivals Levante in the first derby in 18 months. While Levante have struggled in recent years, they've always been competitive against us, winning the last 4 home games. They've also had a decent return to La Liga, beating Villarreal and drawing at the Bernabeu, so this was always going to be a tricky tie.
Marcelino made 2 changes from the last game. With Gabriel not at full fitness after an injury he was replaced by Murillo. That means Valencia have had a different back two in all four games this season. The main surprise was the inclusion of Mina, replacing Zaza as Rodrigo's strike partner. While Mina is in his third season, this is only the second time he's played with Rodrigo in a forward two. The previous time, away to Atletico Madrid in Nuno's last season, didn't end well, with Rodrigo getting injured for 2 months. I wouldn't read too much into Mina replacing Zaza, with Valencia playing midweek, it's probably just rotation.
The first half was a bit of a dull affair. Neither team looked inspiring going forward. Valencia had the better of the first 15 minutes and Levante the better second 15 minutes. They looked the more likely to score, so it was a little against the run of play when we took the lead. Rodrigo controlled a long ball from Parejo well. I've criticised his decision making, but this time he got it exactly right. Instead of trying a wild shot or dribble he played the ball out to Pereira and, from the latter's cross, found space to power a header home. Valencia should have been 2-0 up. In both cases Soler was the main culprit. Firstly, doing good work to cut inside but placing a weak shot right at the keeper and then, after a looping header from Mina had hit the woodwork, heading straight at the keeper.
Valencia had changed tactics a bit for this game, going more for long balls, probably hoping to exploit the high back line that Levante had employed in previous games. There were also more shots from distance, though they were ineffective. Levante equalised towards the end of the first half, with Valencia conceding a disappointing goal from a cross.
The second half was a bit dull, with few chances. Rodrigo missed the best of them when put through, but as the half dragged on, it looked like neither team could score and the game finished 1-1.
So, Valencia remain unbeaten after 4 games against reasonably difficult opponents. We look a difficult team to beat, but there's a lack of creativity and danger up front. The battle for top 6 will be intense this season and we need to start to winning games if we want to achieve that. To do that, we need to start scoring. Satisfactory, but improvement still needed, especially in attack.
Neto 5.5 - as in previous games, not a lot to do as he was screened by an effective defence, but was a bit flat footed on the goal.
Gaya 6 - reasonable game and put in a few good crosses, but needs to learn to use his right foot
Murillo 6.5 - had a good game, good to have so many solid defenders for a change
Garay 6 - no complaints, played well
Montoya 4 - ineffective in defence and attack, lucky not to get booked
Pereira 6.5 - another good game, always a threat on the left
Kondogbia 6 - competent but not the force he was in previous games and nearly got caught in possession a couple of times
Parejo 6 - a few wayward passes, but created a few good opportunities as well
Soler 4 - disappointing game, missed a couple of good chances and his passing was not that great
Rodrigo 6.5 - needed that goal and put in a good performance
Mina 2.5 - anonymous and forgettable, needs to take advantage of starts like this
Guedes 4.5 - not sure if it was his idea or Marcelino's for him to shoot every time he was in a dangerous position, but it didn't work
Zaza 4.5 - not much impact after coming on, but Mina's lack of form means he's safe