Saturday, September 9, 2017

Valencia 0-0 Atletico Madrid

Valencia faced one of their historic rivals and secured a credible draw in a tough stalemate.

Marcelino made 3 changes from the last game. Garay returned to replace Vezo. Gabriel replaced fellow new signing Murillo. Pereira came in, initially at left wing, replacing Lato, with Gaya dropping back. Both Gabriel and Pereira made their debut. To Valencia's relief, Atletico's star man Greizmann was suspended.

Valencia got off to a nervy start, Atletico were quickest off the blocks and had us pinned back for the first 10 minutes. We woke up, however and the first half resembled a chess game, with both teams carefully probing the other, trying to find a way through, but coming up against a solid defence. Atletico looked a bit better in attack and looked especially dangerous on the break. Atletico were a bit physical with the challenges and the referee was too lenient. Montoya was rightly booked but Partey had gotten away with a number of dodgy challenges.Valencia were solid in defence, dependable in midfield, but struggled to create any chances.

The second half followed a similar pattern, by the hour mark the teams were still even, with Valencia maybe even edging it but never testing Oblak. We were trying to patiently work the ball around, but possibly the odd shot from distance would have been warranted. Beating Oblak from range is a tall ask, but we could have got rebounds. After the hour mark we had a bit of a mini slump, with our intensity dropping and Atletico streaming forward more but our defence held out. On the other hand credit must go to our guys. Rodrigo and Zaza, having little to work with, put in a great shift preventing Atleti building from the back. Every time danger lurked, Kondogbia would pop up like a magician with a timely interception. The only slight criticism: Soler and Pereira switching wings seemed to confuse them and our team more than the opposition.

Substitutions for both sides failed to break the deadlock and the game finished 0-0. A fair result overall. We equipped ourselves well and showed considerable improvement in defence and midfield over last season and successive clean sheets in home games but the inability to create and take chances makes any top 4 finish unlikely for now. Despite that, there are many reasons to be positive, the team is, at last, developing in the right direction. We played with a good level of intensity today, a big change from last year when a lot of the guys looked like they couldn't be bothered. The squad looks stronger and today was the first time since 1 November 2015 that we've kept clean sheets in successive home games.

As always your comments are appreciated.

PLAYER RATINGS

Neto 7 - showed himself to be a very safe pair of hands throughout
Gaya 6.5 - starting to get back to the form we saw in his breakthrough season, with great crosses
Garay 7 - good game and solid defending, glad we kept him
Gabriel 6.5 - good debut, one nervy moment where there was apparent misunderstanding between him and the goalkeeper, but that will improve as they get more games together
Montoya 6 - far better game than last time, but doesn't seem to have developed the understanding with the winger in front of him that he had last season. Again, it's early days
Pereira 6.5 - equipped himself well and was one of our better players in the first half
Kondogbia 8 - early signs are that this guy could turn out to be our best signing since Otamendi. A great physical presence, but also spot on with his passing.
Parejo 7 - has had a great start to the season, Kondogbia's arrival has given him more freedom to act in a playmaking role with solid passing
Soler 5.5 - some good touches, but struggled to make an impact in this game
Zaza 5 - as noted above, had little to work with but put himself about as a physical presence
Rodrigo 5 - worked hard and got deserved applause when coming off, but I'll repeat what I said before, needs to be more clinical with his decision making.

SUBS
Guedes 5.5 - hard to rate him as he didn't really have enough time, got himself in good positions, but there was one frustrating one where he tried to switch to his right foot, when a cross with the left was needed
Mina 5.5 - as with the other forwards, was smothered by Atleti's rock solid defence
Murillo 6.5 - can consider himself unlucky not to have started after a good debut against Madrid, but was secure after coming on. Nice to see us finally have some quality options in defence.

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