Somehow my optimisim paid off and the scoreline prediction was spot on at 1-1. We saw a very different Valencia CF out there today, there was a lot of confidence and composure. It was a fast paced evening at the Mestalla with both teams out there to win. A note on this match is that some reports say that new manager Gary Neville had some input into the starting eleven and tactics but I have to follow up on that to verify it, we will know if he does the press conference. The other thing is we managed a great performance without Negredo, Feghouli, Diego Alves, Andre Gomes, Fuego and Mustafi. Arguably most of those would've started this game and are among our top players.
The first half was filled with chances from Barcelona with the MSN trio up front causing lots of trouble especially Neymar as he took on Vezo filling in for right back. No surprise that Neymar often found his way past Vezo and squared it across many times. Although Valencia CF had commited almost everyone to defense and Jaume pulling off saves when necessary. Barcelona had many good chances but could not convert them. Valencia CF had shots but none on target as Paco remained isolated for that portion of the game.
Voro started de Paul in this crucial game despite him rarely seeing game time under Nuno and being isolated to the stands and boy, the quality that he showed out there today makes me wonder how you could keep him out of the lineup. He was clearly out there to prove a point to Nuno, Voro and Neville that he has the quality to be in this side as well as the desire to fight for Valencia CF. He had confidence and it went a long way as he remained composed, kept possession and picked out great passes.
After long periods of Barcelona attacks, Valencia CF managed to create danger via Enzo Perez who looked like a whole different beast today. Given the freedom to go forward and attack he linked up well with other players and offered great runs in the final third. Enzo Perez made a run into the box and was pulled down by Pique, a clear and definite penalty under regular circumstances, however, the referee wasn't interested. The first half ended in a goal-less draw.
The second half was very much like the first with Barcelona creating a lot of the chances and Valencia CF being equal to them and stopping them in their tracks. Messi was contained for the majority of the game. Then he played a backwards lob to Suarez who was clearly and without a doubt offside, yet the linesman kept his flag down. Abdennour commited to the challenge but couldn't stop him and he smashed the ball into the roof of the net at Jaume's near post. Clear refereeing errors in this game were making it hard to play but credit to the boys for not giving up and maintaining their composure and character. In previous games even one decision against us would break the team's confidence. Yet this time, two major and decisive calls went against Valencia CF yet the team persevered through.
Enzo Perez was fouled late in the second half and couldn't continue so Voro resorted to the bench and brought on Bakkali for him. The first real chance came when a mistake in the Barcelona midfield gave the ball away to de Paul who got past the Barcelona defense only for his shot to be denied by Bravo. Voro then brought on Piatti for de Paul.
Barcelona kept up the pressure and tried to grab a second goal. However, during their efforts they were dispossessed up front by Danilo who set Bakkali free on the right. Bakkali then played a long ball forward to Alcacer who was making a run between Barcelona's two CB's Pique and Mascherano. Paco controlled the ball well in the air despite the pressure from the two CB's, held up the ball well, was composed enough to look up and find the supporting run from Mina who smashed the ball into Bravo's net and equalizing for Valencia CF.
With more confidence from the goal Valencia kept on the offense and Danilo felt brave to shoot from outside of the box and test Bravo from a shot to the top corner which was narrowly saved.
The match did end 1-1. Barcelona did have a lot of chances but Santos and Abennour played a great game. Maybe Abdennour rushed into sliding tackles a lot of time and let Suarez get way but Santos had a great game. If we get a bit more luckly with some decisions we could've won this game potentially.
0-1 Suarez (59')
1-1 Santi Mina (86')
Valencia CF (1): Jaume, Gaya, Abennour, Santos, Vezo, Perez (Bakkali, 73'), Parejo, Danilo, de Paul (Piatti, 83'), Santi Mina (Tropi, 88' ), Alcacer
FC Barcelona (1): Bravo, Alba, Mascherano, Pique, Dani Alves, Busquets, Rakitic, Iniesta, Neymar, Messi, Suarez
Jaume - 6 - Kept out everything except for Suarez's goal which he got beat at his near post. The rest were simple to deal with.
Gaya - 7 - Great tackling, could be the best tackler on the team. Sliding tackles timed to perfection and helped contain Messi and stop counterattacks. Suarez goal did come from his flank after he was caught out.
Abdennour - 5.5 - had spells of the game where he was a tank and did not let anything through but rushed into sliding challenges a lot which Suarez evaded and was free.
Santos - 6 - Lots of improvement from previous performances, decisive and kept Messi at bay.
Vezo - 4.5 - Right back really isn't his thing and he is clearly struggling there. Gave Neymar way too much freedom, luckily it didn't result in a goal
Perez - 6.5 - This is the Perez that we paid the money for, he should be contributing to the attack more often not sitting back defending as in previous games. Well done by Voro to play him offensively.
Parejo - 6.5 - This composed Parejo can lead our team to a lot of victories. This is more like the Parejo we saw in previous seasons. When he is composed and cool we play well.
Danilo - 6.5 - another big improvement. Not so much in the first half but the second half showed real skill. Could keep possesion in midfield, dispossesed the Barca attack in the buildup to the goal and got a good shot on goal.
de Paul - 6.5 - Why was he in the stands under Nuno, this kid has great potential. We need him to play more.
Alcacer - 7 - Although he was isolated in attack for huge portions of the game, he contributed with heavy pressing and ran his heart out at there. And what amazing control, composure and skill to assist Santi Mina
Santi Mina 6 - Silent for huge portions of the game but when it counted and was needed he bulleted the shot for a great goal and equalizer.
Bakkali - 5.5 - Great vision to pick out a pass for Alcacer from such a long distance.
Piatti - N/A - not enough time
Tropi - N/A - not enough time
Voro - 8 - continues to impress as interim coach. Whenever he takes over, he can somehow transform the team instantly and get good results. It's as if most of the team's previous problems in confidence, style and play didn't exist. Well done.
Gary Neville should've been delighted to see the various talents who would work with in the coming months and if had anything to do with the tactics, kudos to him. Today we proved we could play toe-to-toe with the top team in the world at the moment. If we can go up from here, we should be a force to be reckoned with. The atmosphere at the Mestalla was phenomenal just through the monitor, can't imagine what it was in real life. If any of you were there please let us know. The game against Lyon should be a cracker if this is anything to go by. And again, it's at the Mestalla. The crowd could've just been the difference between a loss and a draw/possible win tonight and hopefully it will keep being this way in the game against Lyon and beyond.