A win clenched at the dying minutes today. It's three important points nonetheless but it was far from a convincing performance, especially against a side that's occupies the lowest position in the league. This is precisely why every game has to be treated as a serious challenge. There are no easy games
Marcelino fielded a similar lineup to last week's win against Levante. The front line remained unchanged and the midfield featured Coquelin alongside Parejo to cover for the injured Kondogbia.
The defense had the biggest change with Murillo returning to the squad after 3 months on the sidelines from injury. He started alongside Paulista, whereas Ruben Vezo was favored over both Nacho Vidal and Montoya in the right-back position.
The first 10 minutes or so started in our favor with a series of attacking plays. Santi Mina had the best chance in that period at about 5 minutes with a headed effort from Gaya's cross but he couldn't get over the ball and sent it high instead.
After about the 10 minute mark, the momentum began to shift Malaga's way. They got organized and closed down our players quickly and played on the counter. They were kept at bay for a while but not for long. Their goal would come from a set-piece, a corner kick from the left side at the 27th minute. Recio's delivery found Ideye, who got free from Ruben Vezo, in space and he beat Neto with a point-blank header. Two comments here. Vezo turned off and let his man run free to easily and he is partly to blame. Also, the header was played pretty close to Neto and he has remained static yet again. He really needs to be more active and command his area in those set-pieces. He has shown himself to be the type of keeper who doesn't like to roll up his sleeves and get down and dirty so to speak. If the ball is at a convenient height for him, he is happy to make the save. But if he has to run out and claim a cross, or make a dive for a low shot, he hesitates or is lazy or I don't know what. He just doesn't do it.
Malaga's period of dominance would continue throughout the remainder of the first half. Valencia had one decent chance from Guedes from just outside the box, in the dying minutes of the first half but it went wide.
Malaga started the second half much the same. In fact 10 minutes in the second half, they could've gone 2-0 up, if it wasn't for a referee decision that was greatly contested by the Malaga players. A set-piece in the form of a free kick from the right-hand side was played into the box to the far post where is was headed back across to find their left-back Gonzalez in space who beat Neto with a shot from close range. The goal was disallowed due to a collision in the box involving Vezo and Paulista as well as Ideye and En-Neysri. The referee deemed it to be a shove from En-Neysri on Paulista and disallowed the goal, much to the anger of the Malaga players. There does seem to be contact on Paulista but it can be argued that it wasn't too significant. It's hard to tell how significant the contact is from the slow-motion replays. If it counted, we would have been down and out.
Marcelino opted for some changes at this point and brought off both Vietto and Santi Mina for Rodrigo and Zaza respectively. The game changed for the better, with Valencia making some decent plays and getting to the Malaga box but no clear chances to score. Zaza had one effort with his back turned to goal initially, he spun around quickly and took a shot instantly and narrowly missed.
This point of the game featured many yellow cards with the game getting highly competitive and every team was contesting every challenge and asking for yellow cards. Even the benches were getting vocal. The referee dealt with this part poorly, booking certain players for dissent and letting others go.
At one point Guedes went on a crazy run leaving their defense in the dust and was taken down with a tackle by Gonzalo Castro from behind, no where near the ball and studs up, it was only a yellow card. I am glad we didn't lose Guedes to injury after only recently getting him back. He gets the majority of the tackles, with Soler at a close second.
Marcelino would introduce the final change at the 80th minute, bringing on Ferran Torres for Soler. The breakthrough for Valencia would come at the 80th minute from a Parejo corner from the left-side. Coquelin would break free of his man at the far post and make a run towards the near post to meet Parejo's corner and head the ball past the keeper for his first goal. He was one of the players working really hard out there and him getting a goal does justice to the effort he put in.
Five minutes after the goal, Guedes intercept a Malaga pass from inside our own third. He plays the ball to Zaza and runs ahead to receive the ball back in the opposition half, continues his run, plays a through ball around the last man to release Rodrigo in a one-on-one with the keeper. The last man pulls down Rodrigo to prevent the goal and the referee rightly red cards him. It was a fair decision as it was clear goal-scoring opportunity, Rodrigo was facing goal, and was clear of the last defender. The penalty was converted yet again by Parejo to give us the lead and we would successfully defend it for the remainder of the game.
1-0 Ideye (27')
1-1 Coquelin (80')
1-2 Parejo (85', pen.)
Neto 2 - he is far off from what he was in the first part of the season, and his performances have been doubtful and he is losing my confidence. Needs to be more active and take command of his area to claim/punch away crosses and prevent goals like this.
Vezo 3 - was involved decently well in attacking play and put in some decent crosses. Defensively, lost his man for Malaga's goal.
Paulista 4 - might need some time to get accustomed to partnering with Murillo at least till Garay gets back.
Murillo 5.5 - decent return performance, heated battle with Ideye for the entire game, looked solid enough but definitely has a lot more to give when he gets back into the pace of the games.
Gaya 5.5 - better delivery on his crosses, went forward with confidence when giving the opportunity but covered his defensive duties well also.
Coquelin 7.5 - his work ethic and perseverance are admirable. Didn't give up and brought us back into the game with his goal and his performance in general.
Parejo 6.5 - misplaced a few passes, but delivered a good corner for the first goal, as well as a composed finish on the penalty. He picks up a lot of bookings for contesting referee decisions that are avoidable and as captain he should be the calmest, wasn't as vocal as last game.
Carlos Soler 6 - active as usual and is always looking to cause trouble when on the ball. Rash challenge in retaliation to their challenge saw him earn a booking.
Guedes 7.5 - another good performance. The build up for the play that earned the penalty is a prime example of his qualities. Won the ball back in our own third and ran with determination to get the ball back and play a great through ball for Rodrigo.
Vietto 4 - lacked impact and any real chances of threatening or getting in threatening positions
Santi Mina 5 - got into a couple of decent attacking positions in the first few minutes of the game and got one good chance from a header but couldn't control it. Died off for the remaining parts of the game that he was on.
Zaza 5 - apart from the one effort on goal that narrowly missed, didn't really get any other chances to impact the game. Involved in the build up of the play that earned the penalty.
Rodrigo 6 - he got one moment to shine and he took it. Made a great run to get into position for Guedes's through ball and earned the penalty.
Ferran Torres N/A - not enough time.
A narrow win in the final minutes against a side that is really struggling. They looked more likely to score for extended periods of the game. They could've arguable gone 2-0 ahead and then we really would have been in trouble. It should be noted that they have a lot of motivation to put in a tough performance in order to escape relegation. But for a team that sits in third place we're really struggling with the lower place teams. Thankfully, we didn't lose points and we pulled through and capitalized on the few chances we got. We only really started playing 60 minutes into the game with the Zaza and Rodrigo substitutions, with the last 10 minutes where we really took our chances.
Next game is next week Sunday back at Mestalla against Real Sociedad. They find themselves at the lower portion of the table also. Again, we cannot take the game easily and even the lower ranking teams are proving to be a challenge. Let's hope for a more convincing performance in front of the home crowd.
As usual, let us know your thoughts about the game. Is it time for Jaume to be given a chance at first-choice? How did Murillo do on his return from injury? Who impressed? Who disappointed? All comments, opinions and thoughts are welcome and appreciated.