Sunday, August 3, 2014

Preseason Coverage: S.L.Benfica 1-3 Valencia CF

Valencia CF cap off their Emirates Cup with a convincing win over Portuguese champions Benfica and thus Valencia CF win the cup. The point system for this cup is 3 points for a win, 1 point for a draw, 0 points for a loss, plus a point for each goal. It finishes Valencia CF lead with 9 points, Arsenal are on 8 points, Monaco on 7 points and Benfica on 2.

Valencia CF started this game playing 4-3-2-1 with Alcacer heading the attack, supported by Piatti and Feghouli on the wings, and a three man midfield composed of Guardado, Parejo and Carles Gil. The defense was the same as the past few games with Barragan as right-back, Otamendi and Vezo partnering in the middle, but Gaya started over Cissokho. In goal, Yoel Rodriguez featured for the first time.

While Valencia CF were clearly the side with more energy and presence, Benfica took the lead due to a rather unfortunate error. Guardado gave possession away in midfield and an unfortunate deflection set up a Benfica counter attack which Yoel could do nothing about.
With the exception of that error, Valencia CF were by far the superior side. Alcacer found himself in good positions in the first half and gave the Benfica defense something to think about.

At half time, Nuno brought on Andre Gomes, Rodrigo and Javi Fuego replacing Gil, Feghouli and Parejo. Rodrigo played on the right wing while Fuego and Gomes took their regular positions in the middle of the pitch. Almost instantly, Valencia CF had went to yet another gear. Another example of a Nuno substitution and half time talk that changed the dynamic of the team. Rodrigo wrecked havoc on the left side of the Benfica defense, they simply couldn't deal with his quick feet and trickery. He is a real viable alternative to Feghouli on the right. It's nice to have such versatile players. Also, the addition of Fuego the midfield gave Guardado the freedom to move forwards and cause real danger. I think we found ourselves a midfielder. Guardado had a better time playing further forward than he did in the first half. It was the same position he played for Mexico this World Cup with a CDM to cover his tracks. And it paid off.

What was really impressive this game, was the entire left flank. Piatti and Gaya partnered up quite well with each of them grabbing a goal. Gaya was the first to strike for Valencia CF after he made an overlapping run which was picked out by Guardado and he shot it between the keeper's legs from a wide position. Again, Piatti's work ethic was simply amazing this game. He was fighting for every ball and helped out Gaya in defense several times. Piatti grabbed his goal when Otamendi picked out Gaya's run on the wing who then crosses to Alcacer who had his shot saved by the keeper only to finished off by Piatti who had drifted towards the center.

The third goal was a Guardado solo effort where he drove in from midfield and shot it from outside the box but despite the keeper getting a hand to it, it found its way into the net.

Rodrigo de Paul, Dani Ramirez and Roberto also had time to play but not enough to show anything significant. Andre Gomes kept possession much better than Parejo. Parejo did great today, smooth passes, good dribbling but he did seem a bit off on some passes.

In defense, Otamendi did decently well but it was Vezo who stepped up this time. On many occasion he was the one that took charge and made the decisive tackles and clearances. Really impressive by him.

On the right wing, Feghouli was a menace to the defense during the time he was on but the fatigue from the World Cup does show on him still. Gil was invisible and didn't provide too much for the team other than being a passing option. Barragan had a so-so day, his offensive work was great but defensively was lacking. Barragan and Gaya had loads of space to work with thanks to the great work from the wingers drifting inside and freeing up space. Also, credit to Guardado's runs for drawing defenders to him and then picking out a pass to the wings.

In goal, Jaume came on later in the game and made a fantastic save almost right away. He looked confident again and you could see the fight in him, trying to win the goalkeeping position from Yoel.

Valencia CF could have made it four goals after Rodrigo cut the ball back to three Valencia CF players who were in loads of space but a lack of communicated saw all three of them miss the ball.

 All in all, a very good game against a rather drained Benfica team. For Valencia CF, mostly everyone was at ease and comfortable on the ball. Substitution did not disrupt the rhythm of the team, rather everyone knew their role quite well. The passing was seamless, smooth and effortless. Pretty great game. It's difficult to chose a man of the match with Gaya, Guardado, Piatti, and Rodrigo all doing so well. I'm going to go with Gaya and Guardado since they aren't regularly used recently but stepped up to the occasion today.

Next up is Manchester United, an even bigger step up. They are unbeaten so far in the preseason and have sent people to watch Valencia CF's games. Look forward to that, it will be a great game.


Yoel Rodriguez, Barragan, Otamendi, Vezo, Gaya, Parejo, Guardado, Carles Gil, Piatti, Feghouli, Alcacer

Subs: Jaume, Javi Fuego, Andre Gomes, Rodrigo, Dani Ramirez, Rodrigo de Paul, Roberto Ibanez


1-0 Derley, min 2'
1-1 Jose Luis Gaya, min 49'
1-2 Pablo Piatti, min 54'
1-3 Andres Guardado, min 60'

Any thoughts on the game? Best or worst performers?