Thursday, February 21, 2019

Europa League Round of 32: Valencia CF 1 - 0 Celtic

Valencia CF manage to see off this round of the Europa League with a 1-0 home win to add to the 2-0 away win. The 3-0 win on aggregate qualifies them to the next round, but the performance today was not too convincing.

Valencia opted to sit back and let Celtic do their thing, a luxury they could afford due to the 2 away goals they had from the previous fixture. Celtic had long spells of possession and were the more dangerous side in the first half. This all changed when Jermey Toljan received two yellow cards within 11 minutes and reduced Celtic to 10 men. The end of the first half is when Valencia really started to pick it up and a barrage of attempts at the closing minutes almost resulted in a goal. Most notable was an attempt from Parejo from the edge of the box, which changed trajectory after a deflection and almost went in, had the keeper not reacted quickly to push it over the net.

Unfortunately, Garay also picked up an injury in the later part of the first half and had to be substituted for Coquelin. Since Roncaglia is out with suspension, this was literally the only replacement we could make. This further adds to the question of why all our center-backs were allowed to leave. Either this is poor planning, terrible luck or they must have pushed for a way out, otherwise it doesn't make sense in this scenario.

The second half had a change of strategy from Celtic out of necessity. They sat back and used their pacy wingers to counter attack. This was done to get effect and we almost got caught out a few times. There were a lot of misplaced and lazy passes from our end, at the fault of several players. Wass had a terrible passing day in the first half especially, Soler had a few as well, and Coquelin a few as well.

Marcelino, dissatisfied with the performance so far and wanting to push for a win, brought on Gameiro for Sobrino, who had done decently well. Within a few minutes from coming on, Gameiro would get the winning goal. Parejo played an excellent diagonal ball to find the run of Wass on the right, who would then knock the ball down with his head into the run of Gameiro, who only had to get a clean touch for the ball to roll past the keeper.

While we did win the match, it seemed like there was a lot of whistling from the crowd, especially in the first half with all the wasted possession. Marcelino was quite clearly frustrated as well, with some players being really complacent.

Many times on the counter, we would get the space opening up and then players would slow down the game or try something complicated and would waste possession altogether. Lato and Guedes a lot whenever they would reach an advanced position. Guedes still clearly needs time after his injury to get back into the game. He had some nice flicks and tricks and he was drawing most of the challenges, including the red card. However, in the final third, he would always hesitate rather than run at defenders which I personally found frustrating.

The round of 16 draw occurs tomorrow and we will find out our opponents then. A lot of the teams left are big names, however a lot of them have had poor form . There are a few teams which we could draw that would be considered "easier" in a sense. As for our next games, we are away to Leganes on Sunday before a huge game against Betis in the Copa del Rey semi-finals second leg.