Saturday, February 25, 2017

Alaves 2-1 Valencia

What a let-down. But let's be honest, who didn't see that coming? We see it all the time. VCF produces a great performance that surprises us. Usually it's against the big two (our record against Real Madrid is 2-3-1 for example and we've won two of the last three at the Nou Camp.) However, when it comes to the following game, often against one of the smaller teams, we screw it all up and come back to earth with a bang. So it proved in this game.

Voro made some changes. Two were enforced. Gaya had picked up a knock and was replaced by Siquiera. As I predicted in the previous thread, Nani's absence was covered by Soler rather than Bakkali, with Orellana moving out left. Suarez came in for Enzo, who presumably was tired after the previous game. A slight surprise came with the selection of Abdennour, rather than Mangala, at the back.

If the previous game had caused out blood pressure to rise to dangerously high levels, there was little chance of that happening in the first half. Voro and Pellegrino knew each other well and set out to frustate the other. The result looked like a chess game between two equal players, with little happening. Valencia looked a bit tired after their midweek exertions and Alaves had the best of the early play, though only created one good chance, which Diego (Alaves) saved well. Valencia's best chance of the first half came in the 17th minute. Siquiera put in a great cross and Soler missed a golden chance. At the back, Soler was underachieving, though, and Alaves best chance came towards the end of the first half, when Soler had lost the man he should have been covering. Alaves had only had two other half chances, both coming from misplaced passes from Cancelo and Suarez.

A dull first half had ended and the next quarter would be little better, with both teams cancelling each other out. Valencia's passing was lacklustre, with Parejo an exception and the team was creating few chances. Alaves had set up well defensively, but there was far too much losing the ball when we had it. The game looked destined for a goalless draw and it would have been a brave person who'd bet on over 2.5 goals with 25 minutes left.

Valencia made the breakthrough in the 69th minute. A Parejo special was saved well by the keeper but Soler had followed up to make amends for his earlier miss. The game changed in the 77th minute. First, Orellana, who'd walked a fine line, got a booking. He walked away mouthing off to the referee, not a wise move and Voro should have subbed him off there and then. Secondly, Alaves scored and it was a dreadful goal to give away, like some of the stupid ones we conceded last year. Four Valencia players were unable to stop Alaves getting a shot in for the equaliser.

I was a bit disappointed in Voro's lack of reaction, our legs were tired and it was time for subs, but it wasn't until Alaves had scored the winner that action was taken. They played the ball through our defence. Cancelo stood like a dummy playing them onside

and Diego dived too soon. Game over, but not before Orellana had gotten himself sent off. That was stupid and the subs that followed the goal were too little too late.

All in all, it's a disappointing follow-up to the euphoria of the Real Madrid game. The team was clearly tired and it seemed like midweek had zapped our energy. Back to earth we come. In fairness, I do think the performance was an improvement on what we saw before Christmas and if we'd hadn't had the midweek game, I think we'd have drawn or won this game, but coping with fixture congestion is something all top teams have to do and Valencia's squad doesn't seem to be strong enough to do so.

Diego 7 - made some key stops, though I expected better for the second goal
Siquiera 6 - had a good first half in both defence and attack, but shaky after the break. There was one moment where he and Abdennour let a man run right through them.
Garay 6 - Was good for most of the match, but what was he doing for the first Alaves goal???
Abdennour 7 - overall a good game, excellent first half especially, but a few shaky moments, which could prove crucial against tougher opponents.
Cancelo 3.5 - inefficient in both defence and attack. Poor passing and bad timing for the second goal. Game to forget.
Mario 4.5 - while he frustrated some of the Alaves attacks, his passing was often poor and it's hard to make a case for him being in the team based on this performance.
Parejo 7.5 - solid game, proved once again why he's indispensable. It's a shame others can't maintain his level.
Soler 5.5 - while his goal was good, this was an average game overall and he proved much less effective defensively than Enzo, while failing to make an impact up front.
Orellana 5.5 - after a good first half, in which I'd have given him at least 7, he lost it in the second period and the sending off was, in the end, predictable.
Munir 5 - unable to make an impact in attack and can't complain about being subbed off
Zaza 5.5 - worked hard but anticipation and decision-making could have been better

Enzo 6 - improvement on Munir but still looked tired after the last game
Bakkali N/A - if he couldn't get on in the last game or this, his days as a Valencia player are clearly numbered, especially with Orellana able to cover that side
Nacho Gil N/A - little point in bringing him on so late