The attack was lead by Rodrigo and Santi Mina, as it has been the case so often in the season. Rodrigo starting is a given. As for Santi Mina, it could have something to do with recent poor performances by Zaza and Vietto.
Kondogbia regained his spot in the midfield after serving his suspension, however he partnered with Soler in midfield as Parejo was suspended for a silly challenge against Getafe. This was predictable as Soler has played in the center before and to good effect. Guedes started again on the left as his performances have been exceptional. Pereira was a surprise to see in the lineup again after being booed off last game. I had thought Ferran would start for sure but after Marcelino defended Vietto and Pereira in the last press conference, this could've been a vote of confidence in Pereira or an act of stubbornness. Lato replaced Gaya who is out for suspension, Vezo took Montoya's place in right-back as we have seen many times before; and the center pairing was Paulista and Garay. Neto replaced Jaume who didn't really impress last game.
The game was even for long periods of play. Both sides played a counter-attacking tactic and the game had a lot of back and forth. However, the first 15-20 minutes was a period of dominance from Celta in terms of possession. The period after Valencia came out and dominated the chances.
The first half had 2 good chances for us. One from Pereira at about the 28th minute following a pass from Guedes, and the other from Guedes himself in the 31st minute following an error by Sisto that lost his team possession.
The first half also had 2 penalty appeals. The first was for Celta after Lato and Wass grappled in the penalty box and the latter was knocked down. The referee dismissed it as both players had their arms around one another, much to the dislike of the Celta players and fans. The other was in our favor after a handball claim against a Celta player who had outstretched hands in the penalty box. The replay shows it was indeed a handball. However, the referee dismissed that claim too. I don't know if it was to even it up after not giving the earlier Celta claim or if he genuinely didn't think it was a hand-ball.
Both goals came in the second half but only after some good chances from both sides. Guedes was played in by Rodrigo in the 51st minute but couldn't convert, while on the other end Cabral had a header saved by Neto.
The deadlock would be broken by Santi Mina, who didn't celebrate against his former club. Soler responded the fastest to a defensive error by Sisto, and played in Guedes, who then played a fantastic lob through ball over the defense to find Santi Mina in space. He took the shot on the half-volley to beat Alvarez in the far post. Brilliant finish! Good to see this version of Santi Mina is still there after his injury.
The lead would be short-lived as Celta would equalize four minutes after. Ruben Vezo pulls down Sisto resulting in a free-kick and a booking. The set-piece was taken by Wass who found Gomez under no pressure from Garay and Mina who were around him. Gomez headed the ball, Neto was positioned to far on the opposite side, got a touch but couldn't stop the ball. I would put most of the blame for this one on the defense. There weren't many Celta players in the box and we had more than enough to mark them but we let Gomez get a free header.
Valencia would get several chances to take the lead in the final ten minutes of the game, shortly after Guedes was replaced by Ferran Torres. A corner from Pereira, found Vezo who had his header saved. Only a minute later, Kondogbia had an effort cleared off the line. Marcelino then brought in Vietto for Mina in the last 5 minutes. Vietto would instantly pick out Ferran Torres in a great position in the box, but the youngster couldn't beat Alvarez who smothered the effort.
0-1 Santi Mina (59')
1-1 Maximiliano Gomez (63')
Neto 4 - claimed the easy efforts, as any keeper should but his positioning for the goal was partially to blame, mostly a fault in set-piece defending though.
Vezo 6 - was decent going forward, beating a few defenders and creating space. Work just as hard in defense.
Garay 3.5 - poor marking to leave Gomez in space to score the goal. Didn't do much to pressure him, he just ran alongside him.
Paulista 6 - provided good defensive cover, intercepted a few dangerous balls
Lato 3.5 - was not an impressive performance. Looked vulnerable in defense and didn't offer much going forward.
Kondogbia 6.5 - good to have him back to dominate the midfield. Had one good chance on target that was cleared off the line.
Soler 7 - If the midfield wasn't already set, I want to see him again this sort of position. Started the play for the goal by capitalizing on an error
Pereira 4.5 - better than last game, but still invisible for huge periods of the game. Had a decent chance in the first half and almost assisted Vezo with a well-placed corner.
Guedes 6.5 - wonderful technique and vision to set up Santi Mina's goal. Had a few chances himself but failed to convert. If he improves his finishing and decision-making in the final third, he will be one of the best in his position.
Santi Mina 6.5 - great technique for the half-volley goal. Was quiet for a lot of the game but stepped up when needed. His first touch was bad at times this game.
Rodrigo 5.5 - mobile and active as always but didn't make as much of an impression this game.
Ferran Torres 6 - his crosses are among the most reliable in the team. Had a good chance to score but couldn't convert.Made a difference in the little time he came. He should've started.
Vietto N/A - not enough time, almost assisted Ferran for a goal but the latter couldn't convert.
More points dropped but still in good position to qualify. We did gain a point but had more than enough chances to claim more with plenty of chances. It was interesting that Marcelino defied fan pressure to play both Pereira and Vietto again. This is either to re-affirm his confidence in them or an act of stubbornness. I hope it's the former. These players do certainly have talent but some players can excel only in certain environments and not in others, as well as certain times but not others. The decision is his whether to play them or not, as well as whether they continue or not. I honestly prefer that we seal the spot and then we can give all the players we want a final trial, a final evaluation, before a final judgement is made.
They were missing Aspas and we were missing Parejo, two key players. The extent of impact of their absence is guesswork but I think we had the advantage. It was an entertaining game from what I saw (my stream lagged a lot, so, sorry if I missed anything important).
We had 3 games within a week which is a taste of what it would be like with Champions League football next season. Squad depth and fitness will make a huge difference and it should influence the training sessions and our activity in the transfer market.
Next week, we are back at home against Eibar. We have home advantage but Eibar is a tough team and shouldn't be taken lightly. They did beat us in the reverse fixture. If Betis lose to Atletico tomorrow and we take points against Eibar we guarantee qualification in front of the home crowd so it should be a great treat.
As usual, please let us know your thoughts of the game in the comments below.
- Is Marcelino's inclusion of Pereira and Vietto an act of confidence or pure stubbornness?
- How did Soler do in a central role and would you like to see more of it?
- Does Guedes justify his price tag (35-40 million)?
- Who impressed? Who disappointed?
All comments, thoughts and opinions are welcome. Amunt!