Sunday, January 14, 2024

Cadiz 1-4 Valencia match thread

Valencia come into this game in more optimistic shape than we've been in a while. The expected relegation fight hasn't materialised. The team has 26 points and is 11 points ahead of the relegation zone. With the bottom 3 performing much worse than last season, 37 points would probably be enough to stay up this year. In other words, barring a late collapse, we can expect a more relaxed second half of the season than last year and if we can put a few good results together, we can even dream of European qualification.

Today's game is crucial in that. Cadiz come into the game in terrible form, just 2 wins all season, 1 of which came on the opening day with the other over 4 months ago on 1st September when they beat Villarreal. Since then they've drawn 8 and lost 7. A defeat at fellow strugglers Granada in the last game piles the pressure on more. In many ways they're turning into draw specialists with 5 draws from the last 6. Their biggest problem has been scoring: just 4 in the last 8 games and 14 overall, easily the worst in the division. Valencia fans will joke that that's not a surprise as their forward line is like a list of Valencia has-beens: Negredo, Maxi Gomez and Sobrino. They've played 8, 17 and 16 games respectively and scored... none. Negredo has only played a total of 44 minutes and as he'll be 39 this summer is surely in his last season. Sobrino is unavailable for this game due to a red card in the last game. Ex-Levante player Roger Marti is also out. Cadiz' main (only?) danger man is Chris Ramos who's scored a respectable 5 goals.

If we have any hopes of finishing higher, this is exactly the type of away game we need to win. That's part of the problem. While Valencia have been solid at Mestalla, with 5-2-2, the opposite is true on the road, with a dismal 2-3-5 record. Our absences include Almeida and Thierry. Pepelu is also probably out for this one, while Diakhaby and Amallah are at AfCon. Yaremchuk has had flu and is also under question so if Baraja continues with the recent 4-4-2 we may see Duro-Mari up front, although Diego Lopez is possible there as well. In the last game Valencia managed 3 wins in a row for the first time since early March 2022, I'm hopeful we can continue this run as a draw would be a letdown and a defeat a disaster.

So in the end, Pepelu made it with Diego Lopez the second striker.

Valencia started well, dealing with Cadiz' press and got the opener on 7 minutes. A decent team goal with Foulquier hitting a nice through pass, Diego Lopez beating the left back for pace and his cut back was touched past the keeper for the opener. Unfortunately after that, Valencia were wasteful and inconsistent in possession and gave away a stupid free kick on the edge of the area. It hit Pepelu's arms when jumping, penalty for me sorry to say and they equalised. Our only other chance came when we recovered and Canos shot was blocked by the defender. There was a dubious call when Hugo Duro got elbowed in the face and pushed over.

Looked a red to me, but was only given as a yellow. A frustrating first half. 

It got better. First Canos hit a super pass through for Diego Lopez who again used his pace to get into the area. Duro looked better placed but instead of passing, Diego slotted it nicely past Ledesma.

Much of the rest of the half was, as our games with them often are, very scrappy with Cadiz looking like a poor man's Getafe. Luckily, they lived up to their recent form and created little. We missed a golden chance to make it three when Mari was found at the far post, but fumbled the ball between his feet and the chance went. With Cadiz piling forward near the end and even their keeper joining the attack, but we broke out and the ever lively Diego Lopez found himself on a 2-on-1. Again, he made the right decision, finding Guerra and Javi also stayed cool to beat the keeper in a one-on-one. Game over then? Not quite. Cadiz switched off at the end and from a throw-in we got to the by-line and Mari made up for his earlier miss by putting the ball across for Jesus Vazquez to score his first senior goal.

As I said, we've messed up so often against teams like this but today we were clinical when we had to be with the pace of our young players making the difference. Diego Lopez had gone through a period of poor form but he was brilliant today. That's 4 wins in a row and the first time since December 2021 that we've both won 3 in a row in the league and scored 4 away from home. Baraja now has the 3rd highest win % of any Valencia manager in the Lim era. Now only 2 points off 7th and 3 points off 6th. Job well done.