Saturday, December 7, 2019

La Liga Matchday #16: Levante UD 2 - 4 Valencia CF Match Thread

We are three days away from the mid-point of the season and Valencia head into their second derby in a row, the first against Villareal, this one against Levante.

Valencia come into this game on the back of a close match against Villareal in which they won 2-1 at home. After a slow first half where the highlight was a penalty save from Cillissen, Valencia came into the game in the second half right off the bat. Maxi Gomez had great vision and execution to find Rodrigo with a lob who in turn took the ball away from the keeper and tapped it in. Villareal would get back into the game a few minutes later when Parejo's pass was intercepted and Anguissa cut inside, found the space and scored form distance. Ferran would rescue the team once again with a volley to meet Wass's cross. The team almost always steps up in the second half of games. It would be great if that level can be maintained across both halves.

Levante on the other hand, got absolutely hammered away to Getafe. The match ended 4-0 with all goals coming in the second half. 

Three points separate the two teams in the table. Valencia are 8th with 23 points while Levante sit at 11th with 20 points. Valencia are also 3 points away from both European competitions. So this is a chance to put pressure on the teams that currently occupy them.

Levante La Liga form: LWLWW
Valencia La Liga form: WLWWD


Garay and Diakhaby both return the lineup having recovered from their injuries. Their addition to the team displaces Mangala as he gets dropped from the list. Cheryshev has already began training with the group and should be back soon but is not in this list. Kondogbia is the other player who is expected back soon according to estimates.

In midfield, the good news is that Coquelin remains in the lineup after having some discomfort in the last few minutes of the last game. Esquerdo, who was his replacement last game, also keeps his spot in the lineup. No other changes to report.

Three changes to note in the lineup. In defense, Garay takes back his spot from Mangala after a brief absence. Jaume Costa starts over Gaya as left-back. Finally, Maxi Gomez is given a rest in favor of Gameiro, who has barely started games under Celades. The latter two changes were probably made with an eye at the massive mid-week game against Ajax.

Bench: Domench, Gaya, Correia, Diakhaby, Esquerdo, Vallejo, Maxi Gomez.


3' - Levante starting off with some quick passing, retaining posession.
6' - Yellow card for Coke. Great vertical overhead ball to Gamerio, he controls and faces two defenders. He sees no support coming and decides to take them on by himself. He gets through them and they bring him right on the edge of the penalty box.
8' - Yellow card for Morales for protesting. Parejo's free kick is aimed right but slightly too high.
10' - Goal for Levante. 1-0. Roger Marti receives the ball wide on the left flank. Garay doesn't close him down and stands with arms behind his back expecting a cross. He shift to his right foot and fires at goal, beating Cillissen at the near post. Parejo also tried to get in the way but couldn't stop it.
15' - Levante getting too much time and space on the ball to do whatever they want.
18' - Penalty for Levante. Morales makes a run into the box uncontested, Parejo decides to take him out with a sliding challenge from behind.
19' - Goal Levante. 2-0. Roger Marti with the goal from the penalty spot. Cillissen guessed the right direction and the right height but it was just beyond his fingertips.
23' - Third yellow card for Levante, this time for Rochina. He tripped up Rodrigo and then said the wrong thing to the referee in complaint.
25' - Ferran Torres hardly touched the ball since the beginning of the game. The ball keeps being played away from him.
26 - Misfortune for Valencia, Cillissen calls to the bench that he cannot continue due to discomfort. Domench gets ready quickly and comes in. Cillissen heads into the tunnel.
28' - Rodrigo picks out Gameiro with a ball over the top of the defense. The keeper races Gameiro for the ball and gets there first.
30' - Yellow card for Coquelin . Late challenge on Rochina.
33' - Rochina with another foul, stepping on Costa's foot. Costa had made a run forward and was primed to take a shot from the edge of the box after Parejo picked him out. Free kick in a good position. He's playing with fire, he's already been booked.
34' - Parejo gets the shot on target but right at the keeper who punched the ball back out into play.
35' - Goal ruled out for Valencia. Costa plays the ball to Soler and continues the run. The ball is returned to him and he pulls in back for Gameiro. Gameiro's shot is saved, falls to Rodrigo who scores but he was in an offside position.
40' - A goal kick from Levante all the way to the opposite end. Should be easy but Paulista misses the ball and leaves the Levante player through on goal. Luckily, he responds very quickly and gets back in time to block the shot for a corner.
42' - What a chance. An overhead ball reaches Gameiro who heads it down for Rodrigo and he mis hit it. It is returned to Gamerio who tries to salvage a goal but the keeper saves it.
43' - Yellow card for Falcon. Gameiro had beat him for pace on the left flank and was through in space so he took him down.
45' - Two minutes of additional time. Parejo is forced to retake the free kick. Soler gets enough on the delivery to set up Garay, he takes a shot at the near post but it is parried for a corner.
45+2' - Goal for Valencia. 2-1. It's an own goal. Roger Marti has scored this one as well. Three goals for him.

HALF-TIME: What a gift this goal is, especially at that timing it gives the team a chance. That performance is just not good enough. This was Levante's half. Not to say that Valencia didn't have chances of their own but that half showed a visible quality gap between the teams.  Ferran is starved from the ball and the few times he has received, he isn't in a position or the space to do anything with it. He started on the left for some reason and switched with Soler half-way through the half.  The team is relying a lot on these balls over the defense and with varying degrees of success. The chances that it has set up were half-chances with Rodrigo's effort being the only clear chance. I feel this strategy works better with Maxi Gomez in the lineup. But maybe they're relying too much on this strategy and too eager to replicate the success found in previous games from these types of set ups. It's okay to try it but the team should avoid being predictable and try various buildups. Also, it's unfortunate to lose Cillissen to injury, hopefully he recovers quickly. As I said in the pre-game, second halves are usually better for Valencia so I'm expecting improvement.

52' - Both keepers with saves in a short time span to keep the game level. Jaume saves the shot to the far post from Morales and in the following play, Rodrigo is denied by the keeper again.
56' - GOAL VALENCIA! 2-2! The game is level. The pass back from the Levante defense was hit too strong and Rodrigo reacted quickly picking up the ball and driving it forward. The keeper comes out to deal with him but he chips him beautifully! It appears Gameiro got the last touch as the ball went in.
58' - GOAL VALENCIA! 2-3! The team has come back to take the lead. Rodrigo picks out Ferran with a through ball, Ferran runs down the left flank and plays the ball across to Gameiro who hits the ball back across goal to the far post and beats the keeper. That's more like it!
64' - These break-neck counter attacks are working much better than those overhead balls in the first half.
70' - Double substitution for Levante. Mayoral for Morales and Vukcevic for Rochina. That's two yellow-card players taken off.
80' - Jaume saves the shot from Mayoral who had made a run past a couple of Valencia players.
74' - Red card! Falcon gets a second yellow for tackling Rodrigo from behind. Levante a goal down and a man down now.
76' - Wass finds Ferran in space on the right. Ferran looks up finds the run of Rodrigo under pressure, picks him out but the striker cannot turn his body to get the shot on goal. Wide effort.
77' - Coke off, Gonzalo on for Levante. He had received a blow from a corner kick delivery straight to the head earlier and seemed to struggle.
78' - Celades to make his second change. Maxi Gomez coming on for Gameiro.
83' - The last substitution for Valencia. Coquelin is replaced by Diakhaby.
85' - Yellow for Ferran Torres for pushing Campana.
87' - GOAL VALENCIA! 2-4! Ferran Torres scores again! Wass to to Soler on the right, then to Rodrigo in the center, he waited and picked out a sublime through ball for the run of Ferran who beat the keeper at the far post. Rodrigo at his best this second half.
90' - Dangerous change for Levante. Wass plays a poor clearance and Levante produce a cross right in front of goal but Bardhi meets the cross but misses the target. Three minutes added.


The second derby also ends in a win for Valencia. A shaky first half which saw the team go down 2-0 gave the impression that this was going to be a disappointing game. Garay gave Marti space to shift on his right and beat Cillissen at the near post. Perhaps he should have saved that. Then a Levante penalty for a silly challenge by Parejo. Cillissen guessed correctly but could not execute the stop.

The team was gifted a goal at half-time via an own-goal from Marti. The second half saw a completely different Valencia. I wonder what goes on in the change room that seems to transform the team every time. Or is it simply part of the game plan to tire opposing teams out in the first half and then apply pressure in the second. Who knows?

The strategy of overhead balls and lobs that the team had in the first half was replaced by on-the-ground play in the form of counter attacks to a high degree of success. Valencia looked dangerous at every counter.

Rodrigo had a fantastic second half. His ability to drive the ball forward in transitions, as well as the vision to spot his teammates and execute well is really amazing when he's in this mood. The first goal he chipped the keeper and was unlucky the goal was awarded to Gameiro who had gotten the final touch. He would later also set up Ferran's goal

Ferran Torres really came into the game in the second half as well, having been deprived of the ball in the first. There seemed to be some changes as to where him and Soler were supposed to / expected to play. Ferran would set up Gameiro's goal and then go on to get his own goal following another Rodrigo transition play.

At the point of his goal, Levante had already gone down to 10-men since Falcon had been booked twice. Levante would not be able to get back into the game after that. Good comeback, away from home and in a derby.

Next game is huge. Tuesday, it's back to the Champions League against Ajax. Ajax will not be like this. It's an away game as well and Ajax pack the quality and the punch to punish mistakes more severely. Last game's 3-0 is a testament to that. Everyone needs to be at their absolute best. We play Real Madrid in the league at Mestalla in the league on Sunday but all focus should be on Ajax. The Champions League is important for the success of the club and the team has a great opportunity in front of them. Amunt!