A tough game at the New San Mamés ends in a draw and two points dropped. The game was always going to be tough not only being an away game but also at the habit the Basque clubs have of giving us a challenging game. It was a narrow 3-2 win at Mestalla earlier in the season and this was another close game. What makes getting one point tonight both better and worse, is the fact that both rivals for the 4th position, Real Madrid and Villareal, have suffered losses this round. We could've overtaken Real for 3rd position and distanced ourselves from Villareal but at the same time they didn't get ahead despite our slip up.
The lineup is something I have seen criticized by many even before the match on Valencia social media accounts. Marcelino opted to leave out the two strikers most-in-form, Mina and Rodrigo, and play Zaza and Vietto instead. The midfield also featured a lot of changes with only Parejo remaining from the past games. Kondogbia returned from injury, while the big surprises where Coquelin and Ferran Torres starting over Guedes and Soler. These could just be usual rotations from Marcelino but some of the comments I read was that Marcelino wasn't taking the game seriously. As for defense, Gaya, Murillo and Paulista maintained their position in the starting lineup while Montoya was given a rest to be replaced by Vezo, despite having a good game last round. Neto remained in goal.
The match started with a lot of dominance from Atheltic. We were on the back foot in terms of chances, possession and overall intent. In fact, it only took 10 minutes for Athletic to carve out a chance. An attacking move lead by Raul Garcia was intercepted by our defense, after which the ball was cleared by Murillo. The clearance was sent to Zaza who was then robbed and the loose ball made it's way to the space between Paulista and Vezo where San Jose was lurking. He attempted a shot from the left but Neto easily saved. That could've been a goal if he went for the far post, but good save by Neto regardless.
The Athletic dominance continued and we could barely get the ball into their half let alone into their box. I think it was the first time that we actually made it to their box when Valencia took the lead. A cross into the box by Ferran Torres was cleared by De Marcos only to be intercepted by Kondogbia who carried the ball forward and played it to Vietto. The latter found Ferran again out on the right. It was tempting to cross the ball into the box where Vietto and Zaza where waiting, however, Ferran had the vision to pick out Kondogbia who was left in space. This would prove to be the right choice as he took a few touches and curled the ball from right outside the box into the far post past the keeper. First game back from injury and he produces a moment of brilliance which he started himself.
Six minutes after the goal, a throw-in from Bilbao was carried forward by Cordoba who made his way into the box before being dispossessed and falling to the ground. He claimed a penalty but the replay showed no contact whatsoever and the referee saw through it and rightfully booked Cordoba for simulation. Good call.
Bilbao would get a penalty seven minutes after that, as Susaeta claimed a challenge against Murillo in the penalty area. A cross from the right split Murillo and Gaya, then Murillo made a challenge, got the ball and the follow through made contact with Susaeta. I think as such, this was a harsh call but nonetheless the referee gave it. Aduritz stepped up for the penalty as usual, but thankfully his attempt was denied by Neto. Great save!
Athletic would equalize the score only a few minutes into the second half. A free kick taken by Benat from the right was cleared by Kondogbia to the edge of the box where Oscar de Marcos was waiting. Ferran Torres, was caught watching at the edge of the box and reacted late to closing him down and the Bilbao player took it first time from outside the box and past Neto on the right.
The rest of the game didn't have many serious chances. We had one pretty convincing shout for a penalty for a challenge on Vietto in the box but the referee didn't agree. Marcelino brought on Guedes, Soler and Rodrigo but none of them could make a significant enough difference.
1-0 Kondogbia (23')
1-1 Oscar de Marcos (49')
Neto 7 - good game from him. Saved us from falling 1-0 down early in the game and from a penalty. He didn't stand still and actually dove in attempt to save the goal but it was in the very corner and he couldn't get it.
Vezo 3 - when he got forward he would lose the ball too easily with poor passes/crosses or even trying to dribble past the defense. Left lots of space for Bilbao players when defending
Murillo 4.5 - closed players down well, unfortunate to get booked and get a penalty against him. For the penalty, he got the ball but the follow through did make contact, it was debatable but I think he's not at fault.
Paulista 4 - he seems to crash into other players a lot in the box, needs more spatial awareness.
Gaya 4.5 - another quiet game, would've liked to see him get forward more.
Coquelin 6 - another good game, closed players down well and allowed Parejo and Kondogbia to get forward.
Kondogbia 7 - great to have him back and I hope we place high buy-out clause on him cause he really is valuable. Was great in defensive situations against set-plays. Won the ball back in the lead up to the goal and fantastic shot for the goal.
Parejo 4.5 - decent passing, still misplaced at times. Had one free kick attempt but he didn't trouble the keeper. Seems like he was only vocal for that one game as captain, but not afterwards.
Ferran Torres 6 - good work ethic, looks promising. Did well to pick out Kondogbia in space for the goal. Questionable reaction time for the conceded goal to close down de Marcos.
Zaza 3 - gets booked way too easily for me and early on too. For the rest of the game, he then has to be cautious to avoid getting sent off and can't use his physicality which is one of his biggest assets.
Vietto 5 - quiet for portions of the game. Involved in the lead-up to the goal, picking out Ferran Torres out wide.
Rodrigo 4 - didn't get the chance to impact the game.
Guedes 4 - he seems fed up of all the challenges or tired or both.
A draw tonight but still 4 games unbeaten. The recent games have similar patterns, we get dominated in the early parts, get a goal against the run of play, the other team equalize quickly and we spend the rest of the game trying to get a narrow win or a draw in this case. We did have a decent shout for a penalty after a challenge on Vietto, but if they had taken their chances we could've lost the game too.
Good to see Kondogbia continue his good performances despite returning from an injury, and Neto has improved in recent games. Coquelin and Ferran Torres put in a good game as well.
Marcelino made a lot of rotations and the players do seems really tired. Our games will start getting tougher in the next few rounds. We played 2 tough games against Basque clubs despite them occupying the lower half of the table, and next we have 2 tough games against 2 Andalusian clubs in Betis and Sevilla who are at the top half of the table. We have to play a lot better in those games if we want to win.
The game against Betis is up next at Mestalla which hopefully will carry the team through. The last game between the two ended 3-6 in favor of Valencia and was a great open game with lots of spaces, end-to-end stuff. I hope this game is also exciting and open, and we manage a win. A quick note is that we are struggling to keep clean sheets and we need to work on conceding goals.
As usual let us know what you thought of the game. Is Ferran Torres showing promise? Kondogbia vs Coquelin? Was Marcelino's lineup the right idea? Who impressed? Who disappointed? All comments, thoughts and opinions are welcome.
P.S. I wrote this late so sorry if I missed anything or remembered the events incorrectly. Please correct me in the comments. Thank you! Amunt!