Sunday, January 15, 2017

Valencia 2-1 Espanyol

Valencia's first league win since mid-October. The result is misleading, suggesting a close-fought game when, in reality, Valencia were dominant and produced what may be their best performance of the season so far. For most of the game the team played more like a team with great link-up play and understanding between the various players.

Valencia began as they would go on, threatening and pressing and not giving Espanyol time to settle. A good chance came early on, Nani fed Gaya whose cross was tipped away by the keeper, with Soler very unlucky to have his shot cleared off the line. Soon after Valencia were ahead after a great team move, with 6 or 7 passes finding Nani, who put the ball across for Montoya to score.

Valencia were comfortable for most of the half after that. It took until the 35th minute for Espanyol to get a chance which Alves saved well. The only negative was that, by half-time, our dominance had only produced a 1-goal lead.

The second half again saw VCF controlling proceedings, the defence and midfield in particular looked solid, up front was the only let-down. Things looked a bit confused at times, with Mina, who was supposedly playing right forward often ending up in the left channel, while Munir had few touches.

After generally having a good game, the ref then started to lose the plot, booking several Valencia players in succession, while hard challenges by Espanyol went unpunished. Valencia's intensity dropped a bit and the need to avoid second bookings by many of our players led to Espanyol coming back into it more. However, in the 72nd minute, any doubts looked over. A great free kick by Parejo was whipped in, with the keeper producing a great save, but before there was time for controversy over whether the ball had crossed the line, Mina nodded home.

It should have been done and dusted after that but, unfortunately, this is Valencia, who can never keep clean sheets against anyone. A through ball almost put Espanyol clear, but Santos produced great defending to cover. From the corner, Valencia looked set to clear but really amateurish decision making from Nani led to Espanyol recovering possession and scoring. Luckily, VCF were able to hold on without too much trouble, but again, it would be good to see dominant performances like this rewarded with more convincing wins. Nonetheless, VCF now move 4 points ahead of the relegation zone and more performances like this would see the team breathe more easily.

Alves 7 - Didn't have much to do, but did it well when he had to.
Gaya 6.5 - This was like the Gaya of old, for better and worse, Great attacking play but caught too far forward a couple of times. Needs to keep his cool too, even when the ref is clearly in the wrong.
Santos 7 - very solid defending and covering, hopefully the injury at the end was just cramp
Garay 6.5 - didn't notice him that much, but I guess that's partly down to him marking the Espanyol forward out of the game
Montoya 7.5 - can we promote him to number 9? Has now scored as many in the last 2 games as Barragan did in 150 games. Decent defending too.
Enzo 7 - wow: completes the full 90 and....! Doesn't get booked. Great job screening the defence.
Parejo 7.5 - so often a target for the Mestalla boo-boys, but rarely put a foot wrong this game and was involved in both goals
Soler 7 - really confident performance from the youngster, hopefully he can replace the often-ineffective Mario.
Nani 6 - a really good first half performance undermined by the awful decision-making that gave away the goal
Munir 4 - worst of our players, didn't do enough running and no surprise when he was the first to be subbed off
Mina 7 - return to form for the youngster. Ran tirelessly and scored his first since the opening day.

Cancelo 6 - did a decent job after coming on
Bakkali & Mario - late subs to waste time, so no rating.