Showing posts with label player ratings. Show all posts
Showing posts with label player ratings. Show all posts

Monday, February 5, 2018

Atletico de Madrid 1-0 Valencia CF Match Report

Another loss for Valencia and our string of poor games continues. In the last 10 games, since and including the league game against Barcelona, we have 3 wins, 1 draw and 6 losses in league play. With all our other rivals for Champions League spots dropping points earlier, we could've built up more cushion points.


Marcelino broke his pattern of pairings with Zaza starting alongside Mina instead of Vietto. This was due to a clause in Vietto's contract that prevents him from playing against Atletico. On the left side, recent weak performances in defense from Lato made Marcelino push him further up the pitch with Gaya behind him in defense. This is also due to the recent Pereira injury against Barcelona after an absurd challenge from Sergi Roberto. The lineup also featured the returns of Kondogbia in midfield and Garay in defense, whereas Vezo was preferred over Montoya in the right-back position.


This section has been pretty much the same story for the past few games so I won't spend too much time detailing it. I am not seeing any difference in the way we approach games. It's more of the same and to no avail.

From the first few minutes in the game, we already gave away possession and almost everyone back to defend. Most counter-attacks that we started had thrown away possession with poor passes or with our players taken out by Atletico fouls with the notorious Diego Costa the culprit of several in a row and being warned by the referee several times. He received many "last warnings".

Neto was forced to make a couple of really good saves to deny Atletico several times and he had a generally good game. Kondogbia was something else today though. He brought much needed stability and retained possession quite well even when several Atletico players team up on him, he manages to come out with the ball at his feet. His passing and distribution both vertically and laterally were great and he did better than Parejo today in that regard.

The ball reached the Atletico box several times but that's just about it. Atletico wouldn't let us into their box. Shots from outside the box ended up in the clouds than in the net. Of the 5 shots we had all game, we managed to get none on target. Absolutely none. This was despite the added fortune of Atletico losing 2 of their center backs due to injury, one early on and one in the second half. Meanwhile Aletico got 5 of their 7 on target. Which brings me to the goal we conceded. Correa receives the ball and runs towards our box surrounded by 4 of our players but all keeping their distance. Kondogbia gets feinted and Correa fires from long range into the top left corner, beating Neto at his near post. I don't really know if Neto could've reached that ball since it was in the postage stamp of the goal. I blame this one more on the defenders who failed to close him down.

After the goal, Marcelino predictably resorts to bringing on a 3rd striker in Rodrigo to replace Lato. A few minutes later, Soler was introduced to replaced Maksimovic. Rodrigo's introduction didn't change much, he was barely noticeable but it's difficult to influence a team that's struggling this much. Carlos Soler did cause some trouble for Atletico with his quickness but he's still not at his full potential after the injury. A few minutes after his introduction he was taken out by Gabi who couldn't deal with him and was rightly booked with a yellow. A few minutes after Kondogbia was on another wild run and Gabi couldn't deal with him either so he pulled at his arm for a while and still couldn't deal him so he takes him out with a challenge. At this point, almost all the Valencia players surrounded the referee to ask for him to get sent off but he escaped it. Even with a man advantage, I don't know if we could've scored. We really didn't look like scoring.


1-0 Angel Correa (59')


Neto 5.5 - Crucial saves, especially in the first half. I don't know if he could've done much for the goal, maybe a better starting position? It's hard to tell. I blame the defense more.
Vezo 4 - decent performance in defense, not much trouble from his side. Offensively, a different story. It's not his usual position but he looked so lost going forward. Usually lost possession or produced a poor cross.
Garay 5 - another decent performance. Still think his best partner is Murillo but did well to control their strikers
Paulista 5 - also a decent performance, especially relative to past performances
Gaya 3.5 - just watched Correa's run for the goal and didn't attempt to help. Didn't produce much going forward.
Parejo 5 - his passing is still far from his best, was outshined by his partner in midfield
Kondogbia 7.5 - the work ethic this game, should be an example to everyone else. Did everything: win the ball, maintain possession, distribute the ball, help out the defense and went on mad runs forward
Maksimovic 3 - just when I was starting to think he's proving himself in the team a few games back, recently he's been less than average. Reckless challenges and wasteful possession
Lato 3 - he didn't do much for me. He can't compete with the physicality of Atletico's players.
Zaza 4.5 - glad to see him back in the lineup and was quick to make a nuisance out of himself for the opposition. Did his best with the scarce supply he got
Santi Mina 5 - even with few chances in the game, he managed a great one-two with Zaza, only Zaza's touch back was too heavy and escaped him. Could've been a decent effort to get a goal.

Rodrigo 4 - credit for work ethic but still wasteful in possession
Soler 5 - caused some trouble in the half an hour he was on but his efforts weren't rewarded


The predictability of our gameplay, the long list of injuries and a period of difficult fixtures, produced some unfortunate results in recent weeks. It is getting to a point where the Champions League spot is in jeopardy. Even though, in comparison, the financial benefits and reputation of the Champions League dwarfs the Copa del Rey, Marcelino seems to have intent on reaching the final. Whether or not that makes up for recent results is debatable. It's still early to count us out but things need to change. I was thinking and realized that a lot of the players we have on loan with a purchase option, will not stay if we don't make the Champions League. Our best chance to retain these players is to get a top 4 finish.

Our next fixture is against Barcelona at the Mestalla for the second league of the Copa del Rey semi-final. With the first leg finishing 1-0 in Barca's favor, we're still in the game but it will difficult to say the least. After this Copa game, we will have either have only the League to focus on for the rest of the season or one more game against Leganes or Sevilla. That match is still far off, in mid-April, so we can still focus on the league either way.

In terms of optimism, the next few matches after the Copa match, are much less demanding. We did have to face the top 3 teams in La Liga over 4 games in a short time with a lot of injuries. After those games, we have Levante and Malaga which are at the very bottom of the table. This should hopefully give us some room to build up confidence and produce a decent string of results.

As usual, please let us know what you thought of the match. All comments and opinions are welcome and appreciated. What's to blame for the recent string of bad results? What can be fixed? Who impressed today? Who disappointed? Do we stand a chance in the Copa game?

Friday, February 2, 2018

Barcelona CF 1 - 0 Valencia CF Match Report

Barcelona hosted Valencia for the for the first leg of Copa Del Rey semi-finals at Camp Nou. Marcelino went with a strong starting XI. Valverde's lineup also was pretty strong. I mean Messi never misses a game and they have ton of talent everywhere.

Line up:
Montoya - Paulista - Vezo - Gaya
Soler - Parejo - Coquelin - Periera
           Vietto - Rodrigo

Valencia's game plan was to park the bus and strike on counters. It's a pity we don't have players with the technique/ first touch to execute the idea of counter attack, because in the first half I think we had 20% possession and were gifting Barcelona possession even when there was no pressure applied by the Barcelona player, when all we had to do is string three passes together and out race Barcelona's defense. Watching this was particularly painful as Barcelona were camped in front of Valencia's D the whole half and with no threat of counters they were pushing even higher up.
We actually defended really well. I think Barcelona had 0 shots on the goal in first half. But the problem was transitioning defense to attack. Defense would win the ball or Coquelin (had a stellar game) and pass it to the middle of the field where Rodrigo or Vietto would loose the ball almost immediately either by a very poor first touch or a very poor first pass. The times the were able to pass - Periera would loose it and on it went. I think the Ref was not that great as well. Sergi  Roberto's tackle on Periera should have been a red. There was a visible swelling on his thigh and he was hobbling for the last 10 mins of first half. Compare this to the tackle Periera put on Messi. Periera won the ball and his momentum caught Messi's standing leg and for this it was yellow. Just inconsistent refereeing.
In 45th minute we had the best attacking move of the half - Vietto drove the football and after some interplay out-muscled Pique by the goal line - but his cross lacked quality. The clearance landed at Montoya's feet who played a nice 1-2 with Rodrigo and had a good shot from outside the D.

2nd half the game opened up with Valencia attempting to push men front. Periera was subbed in for Maksimovic who again showed  his quality. Had a great run down the wing but the final cross was a let down. The deadlock was broken in 65th minute. Messi finding Suarez who headed the ball in. Gaya was caught watching the ball instead of marking his man and Suarez drifted off to get open. A lapse in concentration - Gaya had a good game tbh. Ferran Torres came on for Carlos Soler and Rodrigo Moreno came off for Santi Mina. Mina had 3 really good attacking forays with two difficult chances. The first was a through ball from Ferran which pitted Mina against Cillessen. Mina should have tried a chip but instead tried to round the keeper who cut him off. Tough chance and the angle of his run resulted in the ball on his weaker foot but still he should have the cojones to take the shot. The 2nd was a ping ball from Maksimovic in the dying minutes of the game and I felt Mina jumped a little too early and couldn't get control on the header. Nice try on a very tough chance.

Barcelona 1 - Valenica 0
Suarez (65)

Final thoughts:
The strategy/ tactics were very good. Clog the middle and force Barca to go out wide. The defense and midfield organization was impeccable. Very happy to see that Marcelino had put attention to details. Montoya basically picked up every run that Alba made without loosing the defense shape. That's learning from mistakes(given how Alba got behind him and scored the equalizer in mestalla)! We conceded free kicks but looked like we were prepared for it. The let down was triggering the counters. It's just lack of quality in out attacking players. Nothing much to say about that.
To me this tie is in a very bad shape. We need to score atleast 2 goals without conceding. Seems like a tall ask and considering how faltering our counter attack is and putting 3 past Barca at Mestalla and conceding only 1 would be a miracle. The most likely result would be a 2-2 at Mestalla. Will be over the moon if we qualify for the finals - let's see what Marcelino can inspire!

Player Ratings:
Juame - 6: Didn't have much to do. When called upon was assured. Couldn't do much about the goal. Had a nice deflection if first half which put the ball out of Suarez's reach. I like his keeping skills more than Neto.
Gaya - 4.5: Except for the mistake on goal, had a good game. Just needs to get more aware instead of being drawn to the ball. Used his hands to keep the ball from going in - this could have been a direct red.
Vezo - 6.5: He is continuing to impress me. Looks fast, assured in defending and today was one of the ultimate challenges.
Paulista - 6: Had a good game as well. Little aggressive but played well.
Montoya - 6.5: Seeing some of his last season form. He and Soler defended very well on the right.

Periera - 5: Helped out in defense. Wasteful in possession. Unlucky injury - hope it's nothing serious but there was an obvious swelling
Coquelin - 7:   He played really well. Intercepted the balls, put in tackles. Very impressive performance.
Parejo - 5: Defending is not his forte, but tried his best. Couldn't get the counter attacks going and when he did, up front would mess it up.
Soler - 6: Very good game by Soler. Was tested by Initesta, Messi, Alba on numerous runs, but combined well with Montoya. The only guy in first half trying to jail-break.

Vietto - 5: Wow, Simeone has really done a number on this kid. Abysmal in first half. Slowly grew into the game and had a better second half.
Rodrgio - 2:  Apart from his header to Montoya for the shot in 45th minuted, didn't notice he was playing.

Maksimovic - 6.5: Played really well on the right and then on the left. good player!
Mina - 6: 10 mins and 2 great chances. Got to give some credit.
Ferran - N/A: Had one great pass for the goal and one bad pass which started Barcelona's counter, but looks really good with ball at his feet.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Valencia CF 1 - 4 Real Madrid CF Match Report

Shocking game. It was frustrating to watch for most of the duration. The scoreline is quite misleading. I was looking forward to a close game and even hoping for a win but I think the referee killed the game and quite early at that. Not to say that our play was great, it wasn't. But the referee definitely is the major player in this game. The news in recent weeks was that the players were noticing that since the Barcelona goal that was disallowed in our favor, the refereeing decisions have taken a noticeable and obvious direction against us.


The lineup is mostly the same as previous La Liga lineups with the biggest changes being Coquelin in defense to cover for our suspensions, as well as Gaya being pushed up to the left midfield and Lato covering left-back.


The game started quite even. Both sides were going for it and both defenses had a moment of panic at the first few minutes in which half-chances were made. A few minutes into the game, a Valencia counter ended with Rodrigo who went for a shot from outside the left-side of the box, despite an incoming run from Gaya who was wide open. A bit selfish considering he's never scored from there. At around 16 minutes in, Real Madrid played their own counter led by Marcelo, Ronaldo and Benzema. A bit of interplay found Ronaldo in some space in the box, Montoya cut in front of him and reached for the ball with his leg but didn't get it. Ronaldo dropped to the ground, the referee calls for a penalty and Ronaldo easily converts. This was a fifty-fifty for me and against the big 2, they often go against us. I'm sure many of you have seen this sort of challenge not given as a penalty. Was it a reckless challenge from Montoya's part? Yes. Did Ronaldo make the most of it? Yes.

At one goal down, the game proceeded in a similar fashion with our best chance coming after Kondogbia dribbles past 2 players and fires from the edge of the box but was denied by Navas. Edging closer to the end of the half, a Madrid attack builds up and a ball is crossed towards Benzema from the right. Montoya jumps to contest the ball but Benzema opts to stay on the ground, backs into Montoya looking for contact. He drops to ground very easily and the referee calls a penalty again which Ronaldo converts again. This was in no way a penalty in my opinion. Montoya had every right to jump for that ball and contest it. He didn't push or use his hands, Benzema backed into him, it was a clear dive. 

On the other end, Parejo gets tripped up in the penalty spot with clear contact that was nowhere near the ball and the referee sees it but says to play on. Last minute of the first half, Guedes fires from the edge of the box and Navas parries for a corner. The referee end the half and doesn't let us take the corner. Again, the issue here is the inconsistency. Some teams get several minutes beyond the half to keep taking corner after corner and we can't even get one. Two goals down at half-time with a lot of decision going against us, in a half that was quite even otherwise is a big confidence knock. Guedes suffered from some uncomfort and Soler was brought on to replace him in his first game back from injury.

In the end of the first half and then into the second half, a lot of silliness happened. Madrid players, aware that decision were going their way and that Valencia players were frustrated, starting going down at every little touch. This is to be expected. This is an often overlooked effect of one-sided decisions, players take advantage of it. This is especially true if the antics go unpunished as was the case. A few minutes in and Ronaldo fell in the box again and was told to get up quite rightly by the referee but wrongly escaped booking for a clear dive. 

Valencia would pull one back nearing the 60th minute from a corner. Parejo found Mina who was amidst a cluster of Madrid players but soared above them to head it past Navas on his right. This was when Valencia roared back into the game as the crowd found their voice again and cheered the team on. There was attack after attack and Madrid would keep getting dispossessed to start a new attack. Marcelino brought on Zaza for Rodrigo and Perreira for Lato (Gaya returned to left-back) as he senses the possibility of another goal. 

This was not to be the case and the team drifted off. Passes started getting misplaced and the ball was lost too easily. Crosses were aimless and shots. We had one really good chance from Rodrigo who was found in the center by Mina with a gaping net as Navas was out of position. But the shot was difficult for him and he sent the ball over the bar. 

In the final ten minutes we would be caught off guard twice. The first an attempt that exploited the right side of our defense. A run by Marcelo with a quick one two found him in space and he slotted it past Neto. Very questionable keeping. Beaten at the near side through his legs. The second was 5 minutes later, another one two this time from the center which finished with an effort from Kroos from the edge of the box, beating Neto again. 

0-1 Ronaldo (16', pen.)
0-2 Ronaldo (38', pen.)
1-2 Santi Mina (58')
1-3 Marcelo (84')
1-4 Kroos (89')

Neto 2 - Is it just me or his keeping looking really shaky compared the beginning of the season. Stays frozen most of the time or doesn't commit fully to a leap. Beaten at the near side is another con.
Montoya 1 - We are really in need of a functioning right back. Despite the referee's harsh decisions, his decision-making wasn't too great either. Every time an attack comes from his side, he looks shaky and we look vulnerable to concede.
Coquelin 3.5 - For a make-shift center-back he did just as much as could be expected from him. He only really looked vulnerable in the last 10 minutes for the third and fourth goals. 
Garay 4 -  took a knock to head early on but fought through and like his partner only looked vulnerable for the last two goals.
Lato 3.5 - at times he looks solid and at others he gets overwhelmed and seems lost.
Kondogbia 5- good game, commanded the midfield alongside Parejo and caused problems with his dribbling and shots.
Parejo 4.5 - decent game but his passing which should be his specialty is really lacking at times, loses possession at crucial moments. 
Guedes 4.5 - got shut down pretty well and didn't get much of a chance to shine save for a shot on goal at the end of the first half, went off due to injury afterwards. 
Gaya 4.5 - decent going forward and tracking back but was a bit wasteful with his crossing at times. 
Rodrigo 2 - selfishness doesn't go well and it's becoming a habit. Opted to shoot from long-range where he's hardly scored before despite an open players available. Also should've done better with an open goal from Mina's cross.
Santi Mina 5.5 - gave us a way back in this game and almost to a tie but Rodrigo couldn't finish

Soler N/A - needs more time, still miles away from his best but maybe this wasn't the best game to reintroduce him.
Zaza 5 - caused a decent amount of trouble in the time he was on, always fights for every ball and tries to pressure the opposition
Pereira 3.5 - hardly made an impact

A combination of one-sided refereeing for the majority of the game and really bad play in the final minutes of the game resulted in a misleading scoreline. All the cushion points we had have now run out. Real Madrid are now two points away from us with a game to spare. Effectively we could be in 4th place and 3 points ahead of 5th (where Villareal are currently sitting as I type this as they are leading Real Sociedad). Some of these players could be tired from the extra time during the midweek Copa del Rey game, but the tight schedule is about to continue. In the next two weeks, we face Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and then Barcelona again. It's a gruesome schedule and that's an understatement at that. 

A lot of our players are falling to injury and suspension, so our squad is being stretched. Hopefully we can get Murillo back soon and he quickly finds his way into the team as that will be a huge boost. Our woes in the league have begun right about when he got injured. The partnership with Garay is our best defensive lineup and allows everyone else to commit forward in peace. I don't know if the last 4 days of the market will bring a right-back for us, but we need one. 

As for the refereeing, we just need more consistency in decisions and, a bit more protection and good decision-making (from our end too), as we really can't afford more injuries and suspensions. 

Next game is on Thursday, away to Barcelona for the Copa del Rey semi-finals. We need the game to go way differently that what we've seen today. The first leg result could make it our break it for us.

As usual, let us know your thoughts about the game. Is the scoreline a fair indication of the game? Do you agree with the players that the refereeing is against us since the Barcelona game? Who impressed? Who disappointed? All comments and opinions are welcome and appreciated. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Deportivo Alaves 2 - Valencia CF 1 [Alaves 2 - Valencia 3 (in Penalty shootout)] Match Report

Valencia CF and Alaves engaged in an entertaining second leg duel for a semi-final berth in Copa del rey. After winning the first leg, 2-1 at Mestalla, we needed a good defensive performance to qualify for the semis. Marcelino went with a strong starting XI.The only surprising start was Maksimovic over Andreas Periera on the right wing.

Line up:
     Montoya - Paulista - Vezo - Gaya
Maksimovic - Kondogbia - Parejo - Guedes
                     Zaza - Vietto

Garay, Neto, Periera, Lato, Coquelin, Rodrigo, Mina

First Half:
Fairly cagey affair. Neither team was creating too many chances and the game was bogged down in the middle. Though Alaves were more threatening and employed semi high press. I don't think we had a single shot on goal in first half.  Gaya had a great chance to pass it to Guedes but instead went for Zaza and was defended very easily. The only major incident was Paulista's injury in the 19th minute. Paulista went up for a header on a free-kick from Parejo and landed awkwardly. You could make out his left knee buckled when he was landing. He tried to shrug it off and continue but  it was not to  be. Hope it's nothing serious as Paulista has been an important part of our defense. Initial reports said it was hyper-extension and not an ACL tear. I would take it with a grain of salt and still hope it's nothing serious! The logical sub for Paulista is Garay who was being rested keeping the match against Real Madrid this weekend, but it was not to be.

Second Half:
Started with lot more purpose from Alaves. They started pressing us high in our part of the field. At a time there would be 3 players surrounding Kondogbia and Parejo to steal the ball or prevent them from starting our counter (This I guess has been the recent allusion to opposition figuring out Marcelino). Vietto was replaced by Rodrigo in the 57th min. Though Alaves was pressing us high up they didn't have clear chances in front of goal and were contained to long range efforts mostly outside of middle. Having already been burned by Sobrino in the first leg it was heartening to see the press by Kondogbia and Parejo in the middle to clog up the shooting lanes.

Kondogbia had the first direct chance of the match for us but it came of the bar. Tough chance, nice take, unlucky. Alaves made their subs and ex-Valencia player Munir came onto the field who had an immediate impact with a nicely take header from a cross from near the half line. It was a very good cross and and good run by Munir. Gaya should have done better and not let Munir through. Juame could have come to collect the cross as well. It was just one of those things - One mistake which could prove costly as the aggregate was 2-2 and Alaves had the away goal. Santi Mina came in for Maksimovic and immediately made an impact. A long ball from - I believe montoya, was misjudged by Alaves CB and it fell nicely to Zaza who was able to control the ball and pass a through ball to Mina who hit a nice low left foot finish. Good goal and nothing Sivera could do about. This should have put the duel to rest but Valencia ended up making one more mistake on a long free kick in 86th minute. Vezo over jumped on the free kick and it hit his torso and fell nicely for Sobrino who finished it first time. With Score being 2-1 and level on aggregate extra time loomed large.

Regular Time:
Alaves 2 - Valencia 1
Munir        Mina

This was one thing that none of the Valencia fans wanted - with so many crucial fixtures in laliga coming playing an additional 30 mins is not ideal.

First Half:
Alaves started very strong in the first half of extra time but lacked quality in final third. Guedes had a strong shot from outside the D at the end of first half of extra time.

Second Half:
Second half, Alaves just petered out and we were dominating, but just couldn't find find the spark in final third to get a chance on goal. The one real good chance that Rodrigo had was deflected by Sivera and went of the bar. Montoya was impressive with his motor and had a nice shot at the end.

Alaves 2 - Valencia 3

Juame was impressive in the penalties. Guessed the right way 2 times and saved on both occasions. Sivera saved well as well.

Alaves     - Valencia (PK shootout)
Pina             Rodrigo
Pedraza(x)   Mina
H.Perez(x)   Kondogbia(x)
Munir          Gaya

Very impressive penalties by Gaya and Rodrigo. Looked very confident and hit the inside netting. Had read once that the highest probability of scoring penalties is if you aim for the top-underside  or the inside-side netting as they are toughest to reach for the keeper.

Player Ratings:

Juame - 9: Impressive in penalties. Seems to have picked up some mind games from Diego Alves. Great stops. Could have done better with the crosses but overall assured game.
Gaya - 7: Got beaten by the legal push-off from Munir and burned for the goal. But otherwise a flawless game with an excellent penalty.
Vezo - 7: I thought Vezo had an impressive game. Except for the goal where he misjudged the whole thing, very assured defending and I am also seeing a never before seen burst of pace. Just needs to cut out mental errors. He could keep up with many of vertical runs made by Alaves players and get better of them. Saved Guedes whose heavy touch had Pedraza off on the counter with only Gaya left until Vezo put in the tackle to get the ball off.
Paulista - N/A: Looked assured until injury
Montoya - 8: Montoya had a quiet good game. He might not be good at heading, but grew in strength as the game went on. Was amazing in extra time with time and again cutting the through ball and driving the ball to opposition third and had a great left footed shot in 117th min which just went over. No wonder he is the fittest in the squad ( I believe Marcelino conducted this test as soon as he became the coach).
Guedes  - 7: Didn't have much of an impact. But was the best offensive player. Had a strong shot in extra time and good combination play with Gaya and Parejo.
Kondogbia - 7.5: Very assured ball handling and defending (tackling). Just makes me nervous when he tries to dribble out of 3-man rush.
Parejo - 7: Struggled as the rest with offense facing so much pressure. But defended and committed with all heart. Free kicks were a miss and had as usual few astray passes but nothing which became catastrophic.
Maksimovic - 7: Played well. Smart player. Got into attacking positions and passed the ball. Defended well when required.
Vietto - 4: Forgettable day for Vietto. Couldn't get much going in attacking play. Don't think it's just his fault but when he got the ball lost it very easily.
Zaza - 6: Good assist for the goal. Only thing of notice. His first touch is too heavy and Alaves stole the ball of him very easily in the first half by pressing

Mina - 7: Took his goal very nicely. Had me worried with his stutter step for penalty but Sivera bit the bullet first and was able to place it to the right.
Rodrigo - 7: Rodrigo imo is way too inconsistent. Today also it was on display. He did all the hard work getting the ball down the wings and just controlled it out of bounds. He followed that up with a beautiful pass to mina who passed it back for the shot that went of the bar in extra time. Had couple of wild swings at the goal(on one occasion complete missed the ball) inside the D.
He just needs to became consistent with decision making and be more poised.  Next season in UCL and Europa - away games you might have 5 chances. Need to score at-least 1.
Garay - 9: Was very assured and great defending. The talk might be the penalty not given. Maybe he was rusty but as soon as he came on got beaten and was a blatant hand ball which the ref didn't give. Lucky! but other than that very assured.

Sivera - 8: Being 6 feet. I was worried about Sivera's height in goal and the first leg was a disaster for him. But he makes up for the lack of height with good position and anticipation and played very well today. Had a save in penalty shoot out as well! Hope to see him grow more in Alaves.

Overall, I am happy with the result. I want this young team to experience these kind of situations. Directly facing them in UCL or Europa might be hard. Marcelino will have a tough time to recover players for Laliga, but all this is required for next season and in fact to qualify for ULC or Europa next season!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

UD Las Palmas 2-1 Valencia CF Match Report

Valencia CF was handed their fourth defeat of the season today against Las Palmas. This was familiar opposition as Valencia played in two legs against Las Palmas in the Copa del Rey which ended 1-1 away and 4-0 at home. Before this game, Las Palmas was flat at the bottom of the table, with the most goals conceded. This slip was again made worse by the fact that Atletico Madrid, despite being held back to a draw earlier in the day, still gained a point advantage over us. We're still at a great standing in the league, but the game was a massive disappointment.

Before I get into the game, I want to talk about the lineup.

The forward and defense lines are something we've seen recently with the exception of Gaya being replaced by Lato due to suspension. The midfield was a strange one, with both Kondogbia and Coquelin featuring. While Parejo is absent due to suspension, those 2 players are meant to rotate the same CDM position. Looking at it before the game, I thought that we were going to lack creativity from the central midfield and that was indeed the case. As for the wingers, usually at least one of Pereria or Guedes would start but we got to see Nacho Gil and Maksimovic, both of whom have impressed the coaching staff in recent game, start together. 

You couldn't have guessed what was going to happen later in the game by watching the first 5 minutes. That's all the time it took for Valencia to find the back of the net. There were two similar corners, delivered by Nacho Gil, the first dealt with by the opposing defense but the second one beating them completely and headed in by Santi Mina. Valencia's early dominance would continue with Santi Mina being set up for a one on one against the keeper, who would get a touch on his shot but the ball would keep it's motion only to hit the post. Unlucky not to score. 

The first 10 minutes would also feature many tackles by Las Palmas in an attempt to press us off the ball. The referee stopped the game so many times in quick succession and the flow of the game was often stopped. After the goal though, we would lose control over the game and Las Palmas would put together attacking move after move. Viera would start a move and make an unmarked darting run into the box. The ball was lifted into the center, met by Calleri who found Viera's run who blasted the ball into the net from point-blank range between Neto's outstretched arms. In the next five minutes, both Lato and Vezo earned yellow cards. 

With the remaining first half being more of the same, I thought we would bounce back in the second half as we normally do. It was more dominance from Las Palmas and it would become worse very soon. Fifty second minute, a Las Palmas ball struck Paulista's outstretched elbow and the referee calls for a penalty and books him with a yellow card. Paulista gets up in the referee's face and starts complaining about the decision for quite a while and the referee gets fed up and send him off. A goal behind from Calleri's penalty and a man down against a team that has dominated us for most of the game. Again, you could argue with these that sometimes they're not given or that it's too harsh to give a penalty and send a player off but that's the way it went. The last 30 minutes of the game would see Montoya, Neto, Zaza (from the sideline), Vezo and Coquelin get booked. Of course, that meant a second yellow for Vezo as well who was shown a red card. 

Valencia did step up in the final minutes of the game and put together some good moves but it was to no avail. Guedes, Vietto and Zaza were all brought on after the 2nd goal but none could influence the game enough to score. The second sending off killed off the game and even with 4 added minutes everybody knew it was going to be a Las Palmas win. 

0-1 Santi Mina, 5'
1-1 Viera, 20'
2-1 Calleri (pen.), 53'

Neto 3 - Caught off guard for the first goal but it was shot right between his arms, maybe could've done better. Half-dove for the penalty then frozen.
Montoya 5 - A decent performance, generally covered well in the three man defense after Paulista's red card and then the two-man defense with Vezo off.
Paulista 0.5 - Last second challenge saved us from a possible Las Palmas goal, but cost us the game by running his mouth at the referee. He's one of the more experienced players in the lineup and shouldn't throw the game with one silly moment. Also, barely jumped to contest the ball into the box in the lead-up to the first goal.
Vezo 3 - Didn't track Viera's run from his side for the first goal. He did get sent off, but it was a bit harsh and the Las Palmas player was making the most of it. 
Lato 4 - Should've done more defensively for the first goal, he was left in the dust by Viera. Tactical foul to stop a dangerous Las Palmas counter attack
Nacho Gil 6 - great corner assist for the first goal, put in a lot of effort out there.
Kondogbia 5 - solid in the midfield but the lack of creativity is due to the lineup wouldn't blame him
Coquelin 4.5 - great work rate, helped out the defense when needed
Maksimovic 5 - worked hard out there offensively and defensively, his creativity didn't have a chance to show as we were constantly being pressed
Rodrigo 3.5 - barely noticed he was out there, but then again the offense didn't have much work to or supply
Santi Mina 6 - took his chance and scored following Nacho Gil's corner

Some of the changes could have been due to the Copa game mid-week in mind. Marcelino seems really intent on getting us to Copa Final. However, there was a lot of silliness out there. We had a similar number of fouls (they had 19, we had 15) but a disproportionate number of bookings (they had 2, we had 11 of which 2 resulted in players sent off and 1 just off the sideline for kicking away a loss ball). We were missing both Gaya and Parejo due to suspensions but we keep picking up more bookings. We're third in the league, not only in position, but in number of yellow cards (61) and are tied at top for number of red cards (4). This is definitely an issue. 

Our next game is the 2nd leg of the Copa del Rey quarter finals against Alaves. We have a good advantage from the first game which finished 2-1 at home. They have an away goal but we lead on aggregate. The first leg was close and we were rescued by Rodrigo's goal and a red card but the win will not be straightforward. I am optimistic for that game though and it would be a great boost to make the semi-finals. 

Let us know your thoughts on the game? Are bookings an issue for us? Who impressed? Who disappointed? All comments and opinions are welcome and appreciated.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Deportivo Coruña 1-2 Valencia

With Atletico Madrid winning and Villarreal springing a surprise victory at Real Madrid, the pressure was on us to get a result here and the team responded with a mostly decent performance to land three points.

The line-up provided a few surprises.

New signing Coquelin started, with Maksimovic at right midfield. Up front there was full rotation, with neither Vietto nor Zaza starting and Rodrigo and Mina taking their place. Another notable selection was at right back, with Vezo playing there instead of Montoya or Vidal. Vidal was absent from the squad completely and has clearly lost Marcelino's trust.

The first half was a fairly even affair, with neither side creating many chances. Depor adopted the same tactics most teams take against us. Putting men behind the ball when we have possession and targeting our right back. They nearly scored in the 12th minute from a corner, though it would have been by luck. Their player missed a header, with the ball bouncing off his shoulder and on to the crossbar. Our main chances came from an active Guedes. In the 26th minute, he hit an excellent curling shot which the keeper did well to stop going in the top corner. Shortly after, he shot just over. After Depor having most of the best of the 25 minutes, Valencia exerted more control, passing the ball around patiently. A good move featuring Maksimovic on the right could have resulted in a penalty, as their player slipped and handled the ball when falling, but the ref judged it accidental. He was probably right, but we've had those given against us.

Not to be outdone, Valencia took the lead due to good play by the forward three. Mina made a driving run, beating 2 Depor defenders, then finding his way blocked, wisely decided to pass to Rodrigo, who found Guedes in space and his shot beat the keeper, who should have done better. Depor headed just over soon after, but it was advantage Valencia at half time.

The second half was mostly even, with Valencia defending solidly and looking more likely to score on the counter. Guedes was having a great game and was leading a counter when he was fouled for a yellow. But unfortunately, Parejo picked up a yellow soon after and will miss the next game. Valencia doubled their lead in the 64th minute with the same front three involved. Great persistence from Mina, robbing the ball, finding Guedes who passed to Rodrigo and the latter's shot was deflected past the keeper.

It looked more likely that Valencia would wrap it up by adding a third and the team tried. Rodrigo headed wide, Guedes shot wide.... it just didn't happen. Marcelino changed the front two bringing on Vietto and Zaza. Despite Zaza's knee problem being clear again, he added to the attack and was unlucky not to hit the target.

It should have been game over but the team nearly threw it away with a shaky last five minutes. A cross from our right side should have been dealt with by someone including Neto. It looked like Garay was pushed, but either way, Depor had pulled a goal back and we looked vulnerable. With three minutes of added time it was nervy. Adrián should have scored when put through, but one-on-one with Neto, shot over the bar. Then there was a last minute which I just didn't understand. Valencia had the ball at the side of their box with Vietto. Instead of just holding it up, we passed it around, lost possession and conceded a corner, which fortunately they couldn't do anything with.

With the exception of that last period, this was a decent game, we should have put it to bed and I'm still not convinced by any forward two which doesn't feature Zaza. For all that, three points at a difficult stadium gives us our first away league win since 19 November, which was also the last time we won three in a row. Valencia ends the first half of the season in an excellent position, third, 8 pts ahead of R.Madrid (who have a game in hand), 9 ahead of fifth-placed Villarreal with Sevilla a full 11 pts behind and under pressure to win tomorrow's game. A great first half of the season and credit to all involved.

Neto 5 - not a lot to do, but didn't shine
Vezo 6 - had some problems and was targeted but made no glaring mistakes
Garay 7.5 - very good game, was dominant on the ground and in the air
Gabriel 7 - really solid game, cutting out dangerous moves when needed
Gaya 6.5 - the attacking on the left was mostly left to Guedes, but he was defensively sound
Maksimovic 7 - things are going to get competitive now in midfield but he really stepped up for this game, contributing well in an unfamiliar right midfield position and deserves more games
Coquelin 5.5 - quiet game, didn't notice him much, no mistakes but neither was as dominant as Kondogbia is, too early to form any opinion
Parejo 6.5 - the usual controlling performance, there were a couple of times when he nearly got caught in possession but he came out of it well
Guedes 8.5 - excellent game, was our main attacking threat and was back a number of times to help out in defence
Rodrigo 7 - did well, linking up well with the midfield and got his first league goal since November. Is now the team's top scorer this season with eleven goals.
Mina 6.5 - under pressure due to the arrival of the new forward, but had a good game, worked hard and was involved in both goals

Vietto 5.5 - had limited chances with the team defending its lead, but continued to look a handy addition and could have had a penalty near the end
Zaza 6 - put in hard work as always despite his knee condition flaring up again
Montoya N/A - limited involvement, but nothing negative

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Valencia 4-0 Las Palmas (Copa del rey)

After a 1-1 draw in the first leg, it was advantage Valencia, due to the away goal. Nonetheless, the team didn't take it easy, producing one of their best performances in a while to continue a good start to this year, with Vietto the second Valencia player this season to score a hat-trick.

With a fairly intensive schedule this month, Marcelino went for

giving a first start to Vietto, with players such as Neto, Garay, Parejo, Rodrigo and Guedes rested. Las Palmas in contrast went for almost full rotation, changing 9 players, clearly making a strategic decision to focus on league survival rather than the cup.

More often than not, Valencia get going more in the second half. This wasn't the case here as we had an excellent first half, controlling the game, creating numerous chances and unlucky not to be several goals ahead. Pereira cut inside the 6th minute and his pull back was shot wide by Gil. In the 16th minute, Kondogbia made a good recovery in the centre and his ball forward eventually landed at Vietto, who powered a shot just over. Minutes later, Zaza showing his quality, recovering the ball, holding it up then finding an intelligent run by Gil, who was unable to beat the keeper one on one. 20th minute, Lato's cross found Zaza who sent it just wide. Valencia had started brilliantly, doing everything except score.

The nerves were calmed a bit in the 29th minute, with a counter-attack featuring Gil, Vietto and Zaza, ending with Zaza's attempted diving header being rifled into the roof of the net by Vietto for a deserved lead. Las Palmas pushed forward a bit more after that, but Kondogbia and Maksimovic did a good job of covering the defence, while Vezo marked Calleri out of the game, with the latter forced to push Vezo over just before half time to get the ball in the net. Rightly disallowed.

Any disappointments at the lack of goals in the first period were soon put to rest. Pereira linked up well on the right and his centre was met with a good first touch from Vietto who lifted it over the keeper for his second goal. Nacho Gil was unlucky to get a third, as he had been all game. Instead it was Maksimovic who got it, scoring his first goal for the club and a super one too, a screamer from outside the area. Unluckily for him, it would be overshadowed by an even better goal. The Las Palmas keeper had come out to intercept Zaza, but was still rushing back when Vietto lobbed him from the centre circle for a memorable hat-trick which showcased all his skills. A goal that rivals Guedes' first goal against Sevilla for goal of the season.

Las Palmas were well beaten and their efforts after that came to nothing, with Valencia looking the more likely to score. Las Palmas may not have been at their best, but Valencia certainly were. A very solid performance which continues a good week, as R.Madrid and our more likely rivals Sevilla and Villarreal all slipped up last weekend. Marcelino said that if we keep winning we'll finish top four. Play like this and that won't be in doubt.

Jaume 6 - possibly the most disappointed player as he had little chance to show his skills
Montoya 7 - one of his best games in a while, would be great for us if he could play like this more often
Vezo 6.5 - marked well and was there to cut out when needed
Gabriel 6 - like the keeper, quiet game when he didn't have much to do, but did it well when he had to
Lato 7.5 - has been in good form lately and this was a strong defensive performance, with assistance in attack in addition
Nacho Gil 6.5 - had a good game and could have had a hat-trick, really proving his worth to the team
Maksimovic 7.5 - got a chance to show what he could do and take it, scoring a great goal, deserves more minutes and with Kondogbia suspended for the next game, should get them.
Kondogbia 7.5 - solid and consistent as ever, with good recoveries and passing
Pereira 7 - good game but..... could do with being less selfish. That said, always an attacking threat and good assist for the second goal.
Zaza 8 - was really back to his best. Unlucky not to get on the score sheet but did everything besides that, even popping up in defence a couple of times at the end.
Vietto 10 - as I mentioned in a previous post, he's been on our radar for nearly 4 years and so far has proved worth the wait. Will be starter if he keeps this up.

Parejo 7 - I'd have let him rest for the league, but this was a comfortable and confident performance as usual.
Rodrigo 5 - wasn't involved much after coming on, as the game was in the bag and he looked a bit sluggish
Ferran 6 - continues to look a good prospect for the future

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Valencia 2-1 Girona

Three points and a much better performance but still not quite back to the level that we saw up until the end of October so this is one that leaves mixed emotions, as it was not quite the resounding start to 2018 that we were hoping for.

With Montoya and Zaza suspended, Nacho Vidal and Mina got a start and a chance to stake their place for a claim in the starting line-up, which neither would take.

Apart from that, Gabriel being preferred instead of Vezo was the only other selection of note.

The opening part saw both teams have chances. Neto saved low down from a corner, while Guedes had a shot just wide. Poor defending saw Girona take the lead. Both Vidal and Pereira were unable to handle Mojica in the corner and neither Garay nor Gabriel picked up the former Valencianista Portu who planted a header past an all-too-static Neto. A poor goal to concede and the sensation was reminiscent of last season's Valencia rather than the one that had an eight-game winning streak this season.

Luckily, the goal galvanised Valencia, who dominated the half after that. Gayà and Guedes proved a particular threat, linking up well on the left and it was from that side that the equaliser came. Mina found Guedes, who dribbled well on the left to create space. His attempted centre would have probably gone wide, but the defender deflected it past the keeper to give us a deserved leveller.

Valencia should have been ahead before half-time. Firstly, a good header from Paulista was saved well, then Rodrigo was denied a clear penalty after being fouled by the keeper. Just before the half ended, Guedes got clear on the by-line but was unable to find our forwards with the pull-back.

Having deserved to be ahead at half-time, Valencia took the lead just after half-time and the decision also looked questionable. Gayà had made a great run to the by-line and was fouled, but it looked like he was outside the field of play when fouled, which should have been a drop-ball and possible caution for the defender under the rules. The decisions evened out, but it would be best if these refs just got it right first time. Parejo slotted home for what would prove to be the winner.

While Girona made more effort after that, it was Valencia that would have deserved a fourth goal of the game more. Guedes broke and found Rodrigo for a half chance in the 52nd minute, but the latter dragged his shot wide. Shortly after that, it was Rodrigo who turned provider, latching on to Mina's header and centring the ball back for Mina, who was just unable to get on the end of it.

Girona also had their chance, Mojica forcing a good save from Neto at his near post and later, Stuani's header being saved well in similar fashion. Despite all that, it was Valencia who still looked the more likely to add a goal, though it was not to be. Rodrigo and subs Maksimovic and Vietto were all unable to score half chances to put the game to bed and a scrappy climax ended with Valencia running out winners.

Girona have shown themselves to be no pushovers this season and are a top ten side for a reason, but this game highlighted the fact that more effort is needed to maintain us in our current position.

Neto 6 - too static for the goal, a worrying feature of his game we've seen at times this season, but redeemed himself with good stops later on
Vidal 4.5 - has been one of the season's biggest letdowns. Began the season as a player tipped for better things but below par performances have pushed him out of the running. Got owned today and it was no surprise to see him subbed off.
Garay 6.5 - could be questioned for the goal, but overall had a good game, cutting out their attacks
Gabriel 5.5 - after a disappointing first half, grew into the game later and was unlucky not to get his first goal
Gayà 7.5 - a very solid performance, looking good in defence and combining well with Guedes in attack
Guedes 8 - was back to his best today, always looked a creative threat
Parejo 7 - a comfortable and commanding midfield display, passing and recovering well throughout
Kondogbia 6.5 - good game overall, sceening the defence and helping out when needed
Pereira 5.5 - wasn't able to make the most of his opportunities
Rodrigo 5.5 - made a decent effort but it just didn't happen for him
Mina 5 - had his moments after an invisible first period but was unable to make his mark

Vezo 5.5 - an improvement on Vidal, even though it's not his natural position
Vietto 6 - good debut, was passing and linking up well and unlucky not to score
Maksimovic 6 - has quality and definitely deserves more minutes


Saturday, December 23, 2017

Valencia 0-1 Villarreal match thread

When you're forced to watch your goalkeeper sky a good chance in the opposition's penalty area in injury time, you know something's wrong. Since the crushing and euphoric win over Sevilla back in October, the wheels have fallen off the Valencia bus, as the team missed a great chance to take advantage of defeats for Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla and end the year on a low note. I said before that talk of a crisis was premature and it still is, with the team well placed. Most of us would have been delighted at the start of the season to be third, 5 points clear in the Champions league places but the simple fact is that recent signs are very worrying and the team has now only had a win and draw in the last 5 games and even that draw probably should have been a loss against Barcelona, who have galloped out of sight in the title race, with Valencia's focus now turning to maintaining its place in the top four.

In recent games, the team could at least blame injury problems for poor showings, but today that didn't even apply. Sure, Soler and Gaya were out but the absence of two players shouldn't affect a team that way.

Overall, the match had shades of last season's Valencia: probably the better team overall but coming away empty handed as Villarreal played the way that ummm, Valencia had played earlier in the season: defending well and, while having limited chances, hitting us with dangerous counter-attacks and scoring from one of them.

The goal was avoidable. Montoya had a better game in attack but got caught out at the back and failed to stay with Bacca, while Paulista played him onside and for the rest of the game Valencia just couldn't score. There was the usual crap refereeing as well. Valencia should have had a penalty just before half-time due to a clear handball but the referee missed it.

Later in the game, Zaza lunged in with a couple of silly fouls and largely ended our hopes of a comeback by getting sent off for a second yellow. After that, Mina came on, with Valencia playing a back three but that left us vulnerable to counter attacks, though luckily they missed a few chances. While Valencia did play with spirit in the late part of the game, not even the sending off of a Villarreal player in the 82nd minute could change things. To add to the misery, Kondogbia's fifth booking means he's out for the next league game as well.  

The team has had a good season so far but risks losing what we've gained. We need to seriously improve in the New Year, as the 5-point gap is vulnerable, especially since we will face tricky trips to Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Sevilla and Villarreal in the second half of the season.

Neto 5 - Really had little to do throughout and couldn't do a lot on the goal
Lato 5.5 - not a bad game overall, with some good link ups with Guedes
Garay 6 - good to see him back, was the best of the back line
Paulista 4 - needs to improve or lose his place to Murillo when he returns
Montoya 5 - did better in an attacking sense, but his defending is erratic and he remains one of the weak links in the team, after being one of the better players last season
Parejo 4.5 - had a poor first period with multiple passes going astray, improved after the break
Kondogbia 6 - offered solidity as usual and was one of our better players
Guedes 6 - played well overall, but still doesn't look fully fit
Pereira 5 - not convinced, has ability but often poor decision making, not releasing the ball quickly enough
Rodrigo 3.5 - anonymous and forgettable day
Zaza 3 - the aggression has been an advantage in other games but today it cost us and he was marked out of the game before that anyway

Mina 4 - unable to inspire after coming on

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Valencia 2-1 Celta

After an excellent start to the season, Valencia have looked a little more vulnerable of late. The thrashing of Sevilla was the last time the team really impressed. Since then, it's not like we've played badly, with 10 points from 5 games, but the team laboured to wins over Alaves and Leganes, should have probably lost to Espanyol and Barcelona and did lose to Getafe, despite having an extra man for 65 minutes. A convincing win was crucial to get us back on track, especially with Real Madrid winning to move level with us on points. The team managed it, though with a hard fought and nervy win.

Marcelino, for the first time this season, went for an unchanged line-up. Unfortunately, that's more a reflection of Valencia's lack of squad depth rather than a tough choice made by the manager.

In recent games, Valencia have never really taken off until the second half, but that didn't happen here. The team got off to a flying start, with Vezo unlucky not to score in the first minute, hitting the post from a corner. While Celta had a few breaks of their own, our defence proved equal to them and Valencia had the best chances. Zaza showed a great turn of pace near the corner, to force a save at their near post. Soler was put through but from an angle, dragged his shot wide when going for the near post. A superb flick on from Zaza put Gaya in, but the keeper saved. Finally, Valencia got a deserved lead, with Zaza heading in from a corner.

Celta probably should have had a penalty in the 10th minute, Paulista tripping one of their players inside but the ref didn't notice. Their best chance came in the 34th minute. Paulista sliced his clearance and Sisto's return found Aspas, whose diving header was brilliantly saved by Neto.

Any hopes that Valencia would continue the same way in the second half were quickly rubbed out as Celta scored. Errors by numerous players led to the equaliser. First, Montoya lost the ball in attack, then Parejo failed to track well enough to cut out the counter. Vezo mucked up our offside trap by playing them onside. Then him, Gaya and Kondogbia were unable to stop their player cutting the ball back, with Aspas evading Paulista. A silly goal to concede.

The game changed after that, becoming less open and scrappier and with Celta pushing forward more without creating all that much. The referee was also letting too much go and making questionable calls, such as booking Zaza for protesting when we had a reasonable penalty shout. Marcelino made the substitutions, with Soler coming off for Nacho Gil, with Mina replacing Rodrigo soon after.

The game looked to be grinding to a stalemated draw until the 80th minute. Valencia had come back into the game more in the previous five minutes, but had missed a couple. Pereira's cross not connecting with anyone then Montoya's shot from distance being saved. Parejo stepped up to take the penalty and a nervy moment was made worse when it looked like the keeper had saved it, but despite him getting a hand to it, the ball bounced past him into the net. A lucky break that we needed. Celta let frustration get to them after that and were lucky to finish with 11 men. Their defender Mallo cut out one of our attacks with his hand, but the ref ignored that and failed to give him a second yellow.

Still playing short of our best, but I liked how we played for most of the game today and 3 points against a team that drew at Barcelona last game is no mean feat. 2 more games this year and six points must be the target.

Neto 7 - always a safe pair of hands and terrific save from Aspas
Gaya 6 - some good defending and link up play
Vezo 4 - average, more on the weak side, never looked that comfortable
Gabriel 4.5 - disappointing game overall, made a couple of errors that could have cost us
Montoya 5.5 - generally acceptable, but had trouble with Sisto and his crosses missed the target
Pereira 5.5 - not great in the first half with poor decisions, but improved and provided more of a threat in the second part
Parejo 7.5 - makes it all look easy, decent game, passing and recovering well
Kondogbia 6.5 - had a solid game, recovering balls and connecting well with other players
Soler 4.5 - really lacking, exemplified by the first half chance he missed. Not sure what's been up with him recently, but he's been poor. Needs to recover his form
Rodrigo 6 - decent effort, with many nice touches, but had few chances to work with
Zaza 7.5 - excellent game, a threat in attack and always tracking back when needed

Nacho Gil 6 - good game and if he keeps this up, can push for a starting spot in the first team
Mina 5 - failed to inspire, with poor decisions
Maksimovic N/A - 89th minute sub, don't think he even touched the ball

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Espanyol 0-2 Valencia CF Match Report

Valencia CF entered the two week break with a historic result in the league, having broken several records this season, so it was on everyone's mind how will the two week pause affect Valencia CF, will such a long pause dampen our good form or energize the players even more thanks to having a breather in which they can take things down a notch.

Well the team continued in their winning form beating Espanyol 2-0 away from home in what was a more competitive match than the result would have you believe. Valencia CF might not have conceded a goal, but Espanyol came really close to scoring several times in the first half.

In fact Espanyol hit the post two times and forced Neto into saving mode quite a few times, with Valencia CF looking more and more likely to concede as the minutes passed by. Fortunately for Valencia CF lady luck was on their side today, barely surviving Espanyol's dangerous attacks.

Marcelino chose a different starting eleven from his normal one with Guedes, Soler and Zaza all on the bench, while Andreas Pereira, Santi Mina and Toni Lato took their place, with Lato playing as a left back and Gaya up front. Another smaller change was Paulista for Garay, though Marcelino has rotated the defense fair amount, but still it was a change from the average squad we've seen.

With so many changes to the team the fluid gameplay we've seen before was mostly gone and our attack dampened. Even our midfield which has been mostly stable before was shaky and especially Parejo who had several mishaps, few lost balls, several erroneous passes, etc...

The whole first half was weak football from Valencia CF, with the team mostly defending against very dangerous Espanyol attack, which basically pure luck saved us from conceding at least two goals. Neto was also on point and made several saves, but again it could have been different if Espanyol's players were 1% more proficient.

The second half got a little bit better for Valencia CF as we were able to mostly stop their attacks before any serious danger and with the arrival of Guedes and Garay the play stabilized and Valencia CF became a lot more cohesive.

It was soon after that Kondogbia would score and give the team additional boost of confidence, after which Valencia CF seemed the likely winner. It was a stunning goal as well, Espanyol's defenders crossing the ball outside the penalty area where Kondogbia was at, he side stepped to move into a better shooting position and a powerful and precise shot from long range ended up in the net.

Later on Soler came on Andreas Pereira and within a minute or two the substitution paid off as Soler sent a dangerous cross into the penalty area, which an Espanyol's defender managed to reach first, but it essentially positioned the ball to the oncoming Santi Mina who slotted the ball into the low right corner to make it 2-0.

Ultimately a 2-0 victory, but the result is misleading as this was a very hard fought victory that could have easily ended up in a loss or a draw if Valencia CF weren't so lucky in the first half. The team needs to improve to avoid such possibilities and I'm fairly certain that our standard players not starting had a big role to play in the poorer showing.

Toni Lato was also one of the weaker links as he did poorly in covering on the side and while he has huge potential he is still not ready for prime time.

In terms of reinforcements in the winter we could use a cover for Parejo and cover for Montoya. Even on the left wing we could use cover for Guedes, where now we only have Gaya. We could always use one of the youth players, but I don't know how ready they are, especially now that we are doing so well.

Player Ratings:
Neto 7.5 - Safe and secure at goal, made several saves and has been consistently reliable for us
Montoya 6 - Was generally secure at the back, though didn't provide much going forward and has no understanding with Andreas.
Gabriel 6 - Overall an average performance, had some troubles in defense when paired with Murillo, improved when Garay came in.
Murillo 5 - Not the best defensive display I've seen and seemed shaky and insecure often times.
Lato 4 - Was the weakest link in defense, lost his mark several times, rather poor positioning another couple of times and generally a weak overall performance.
Andreas 6 - Okay performance overall, did as best he could with what little he was given to play with, few decent crosses, few decent runs, lots of running back and forth and a motivated performance.
Kondogbia 7 - Did as much as he can defensively, not the most dominant performance we've seen from him, but a good one nonetheless, was better offensively as he was providing some good offensive passes and managed to score an amazing goal that set Valencia CF up for the victory.
Parejo 5.5 - Poor first half display, lost balls, poor passing, lackluster positioning. Improved in the second half, but wasn't even near his best. Did manage to intercept a lot of Espanyol's passes and thus improving his score a bit.
Gaya 6 - Wasn't a serious threat on the left wing, provided some decent crosses, but rather unimpressive performance on the wing. Was a lot more effective as a left back and doing a lot better defensively than Lato and linking up well with Guedes.
Moreno 5 - Was too selfish and tried to do everything on his own. Had few options to pass and make the better play, but decided to dribble or shoot and it ended up ineffective. Needs to learn to play more with others.
Mina 6.5 - Was the more dangerous of the two attackers and was rewarded with a goal late in the game. Overall good positioning throughout the match, did well with his shot for the goal.
Guedes 6 - Didn't really do much at all personally, but boosted confidence in the team and his direct and aggressive play seemed to put Espanyol on the back foot.
Garay 6 - Solid performance slotting in for Murillo and steadied the ship at the back. His bigger physique also added a new dimension to our defending.
Soler N/A - Provided sort of an assist for the second goal, it was his cross that lead to the goal. Did rather really good for having only 10 minutes of playing time.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Valencia CF 3-0 Leganes Match Report

I think most of us who follow Valencia and La Liga had expected the same thing from this game: a tight game against a defence-minded opponent, with Valencia probably grinding out a 1-0 win. Consider this: in their first 9 games, Leganes had kept six clean sheets, conceding just a single goal in the other three, before losing 1-2 to Sevilla last week. Five goals in the first ten is a defensive record bettered only by Barcelona, so a 3-0 win against them is definitely something to write home about. We can all grumble about aspects of the game, but this Valencia side continues to vastly exceed expectations and equal records from the 1940s.

For better and worse, most of Valencia's team practically picks itself these days. Neto in goal, Gaya at left back, a midfield of Guedes - Kondogbia - Parejo - Soler with Zaza and Rodrigo up front. Montoya usually starts over Vidal as he did today and the only question being who will play odd man out among the trio of Garay, Gabriel and Murillo. The coach seems to prefer them in that order, but it was Garay and Murillo today. Even the subs are a bit predictable, Mina and Pereira will come on at some point, with Lato most likely to be next. Why change what works?

Leganes did indeed set up defensively and showed that their unexpectedly high league position is no fluke with a gritty performance. Valencia had few chances in the early period and it took a set piece to break the deadlock. Guedes played a nice one-two with Zaza and was fouled while breaking into the box. With Parejo sizing up in his usual territory, we all expected him to curl it over the wall towards the corner. Leganes had done their homework and expected the same, with the wall all jumping. Parejo hit a really excellent free kick under the wall into the bottom corner. A key goal at a key moment, as Leganes would otherwise have been more than happy to frustrate us for longer and wait for chances.

That goal forced Leganes to come out of their shell and they were the better team in the first half. In the 17th minute they played a dangerous ball down our right side, with Montoya caught out a little, but Murillo covered. Szymanowski had been one of their most threatening players and he shot over in the 32nd minute when he could have really hit the target. Beauvue produced worse before half time, shooting over with the goal at his mercy. Not a good last 15 minutes for Valencia.

Luckily, it turned out to be a blip. Valencia came out stronger in the second part. Guedes was ruled offside after a good through ball. Minutes later, he nearly scored. Great interception from Gaya, Parejo found Rodrigo and an excellent pass from him gave Guedes the chance, he cut inside so well, but hit the post.

Leganes had a few chances of their own, the Valencia defence wasn't covering itself in glory and another ball through the middle channel was only half cut out by Murillo, with Neto forced to make a save one-on-one. A speculative shot from 35 metres, which had as much chance of beating Neto as I have of playing for Valencia next season, and a dangerous free kick, saved by Neto, represented their best efforts.

Valencia killed things off in the last 20 minutes. Pereira replaced Soler in the 65th minute and was involved soon after when we scored the second goal in the 70th minute on a counter attack. Quality stuff from Kondogbia, who made a driving run from deep, holding the ball up long enough to pass out to Pereira, whose pinpoint cross was headed home by Rodrigo.

The only slight negative was in minute 78 when Zaza was subbed off, thus missing the chance to equal the record for consecutive games scored in. He was understandably furious, but public displays of petulance like that don't help the team. Mina, who replaced him, soon justified his place by winning and scoring a penalty.

Cynics might say we rode our luck a little. The defence looked suspect at times, most notably. But good teams make their own luck, forcing errors from the opponents and clinically finishing them. That's exactly what this season's Valencia does, when last season's would have lost 0-1 to a 60th minute goal, or conceded a demoralising last minute equaliser. Tonight's win guarantees that the game against Barcelona will be a top two clash. Hard to think of any better way to build the Valencia brand.

Neto 7 - a couple of crucial stops as ever and has been an essential part of this team
Gaya 6.5 - best of the defence, screened his side well
Garay 6 - never looked fully secure, but won a couple of aerial balls
Murillo 5.5 - a couple of blunders to cancel out a couple of key tackles
Montoya 5.5 - just not his season so far, with Leganes mounting a couple of attacks down his side
Guedes 6 - provided some great moments, but also a few moments of selfishness (minute 57) when he went for goal with players better placed
Kondogbia 7 - key presence as always and crucial contribution to the second goal
Parejo 7.5 - calm and controlling presence in the centre and excellent free kick goal
Soler 6 - didn't happen for him today and he's been below form for most of the last month
Rodrigo 7.5 - excellent performance, in superb form at the moment, scoring and creating
Zaza 6 - worked hard but didn't get the service

Pereira 7.5 - excellent cameo, proved to be far better than Soler on the right, hopefully we can use him for the whole season
Mina 7 - having a very good season, did well to win and convert the penalty
Lato N/A - not enough time

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Alaves 1-2 Valencia

The Valencia juggernaut rolls on, even if the team was a bit off-colour today, securing 3 points from a hard-fought game against a surprisingly tricky Alaves, who had lost 8 of their first nine games, thanks to goals from Zaza and a penalty from Rodrigo.

While Marcelino reversed the substantial rotation that he'd done for the Copa game, there was little surprise in that. Maybe the only mild surprise was the selection of Gabriel for the third game running, rather than Murillo, who had rested in midweek and had had a good previous game. With Parejo suspended, Soler shifted back into the middle with Pereira starting on the wing.

Alaves clearly set up to frustrate Valencia and did it well. Playing 5-4-1, crowding the midfield and having the odd opportunity. For most of the game it was effective. Valencia were unable to hit their stride, there were no counters possible against a team which sat in their own half for most of the first period. That's not to say that they didn't cause us problems. Pedraza gave Montoya a tough time on the wing and created one of their best chances in the 10th minute with Neto having to save with his feet. Valencia were struggling to create any real openings with Alaves edging things. We saw again how key the Parejo-Kondogbia axis is to the whole team, as when one of them is missing, things usually go below average.

So it was slightly against the run of play when we took the lead. Montoya pressured the defender in the corner of the field and Pereira blocked an ineffective clearance. He then cut back to Zaza. It was only a half chance, but the big man took it well and, on his weaker right foot, blasted it past the keeper at the near post. In the 42nd minute, Valencia had what was for this game a rare counter-attack. Guedes, who was struggling to get into the game, had Rodrigo and Zaza available but overhit his pass. Valencia would have been happy to go in at half time leading in what had been a surprisingly even game.

After the restart, our ex-loanee Munir looked to be through on goal, but Gabriel made a crucial last ditch tackle. Sadly, it was in vain as poor defending from the resulting corner in the 48th minute allowed them to equalise. Bad time to concede. Alaves had their heads up and gave us real trouble in the second half. In the 53rd minute Munir hit a free kick well, forcing Neto into a super save low down.

With Alaves continuing to adopt a defence in numbers approach, it took a penalty to break them. The defender inexplicably waving his arms around as a good cross from Pereira came in for Rodrigo to convert the resulting penalty. There were some nervy moments after that, especially when Neto looked to have got injured in the 70th minute and Jaume started warming up. Luckily, Neto was able to finish the game. Alaves brought on Bojan for Munir and he caused us some trouble but ultimately we were able to hold on for the win which guarantees us second place after this round of fixtures.

After some classy performances, this one was a grind. Valencia do well against teams which play open football but, as we saw in this game and the cup, we can struggle to break down teams which play defensively. Also, while defence from open play remains good, we need to work on defending corners.

Still, that makes this team only the fifth in Valencia's history to win 6 consecutive league games (7 in a row counting the cup.) This is our best 10-game start to the season ever. In the Sevilla game, Zaza had become only the seventh player in Valencia's history to score in 5 consecutive games, joining a list of Valencia legends like Waldo, Kempes, Cabillo and *cough* Rodrigo Moreno. He now equals Carlos Diarte's record (from 1976-77) of scoring in six consecutive games and will equal the all-time record (from 1943-44) of Mundo if he can score against Leganes next week. No pressure Simone, just imagine you're taking a penalty...

I'll leave you with Marcelino's words from the post-match press conference: "If you had told me when I took over in May that we would be in this position I wouldn't have believed it. We've tried to do things correctly from the start, we have a great squad on a professional and human level. We never imagined having this many points and being unbeaten after 10 games, especially when we saw the fixture list. We're in a situation we couldn't have predicted but which we deserve to be in"

Neto 6.5 - a safe pair of hands as always, great save from the free kick to prevent a certain goal
Gaya 6 - good defensive performance
Gabriel 6.5 - made a key tackle to keep us in it, had a good day
Garay 6 - made several headers to provide us with the aerial power that they couldn't match
Montoya 5 - not having the best of seasons, had real trouble at the back but redeemed himself with contributions in attack
Guedes 5 - didn't help that he was fouled multiple times, but really had an off-day and was the first to be subbed off
Kondogbia 6.5 - solid cover for the defence as usual
Soler 5.5 - the decision to shift him to a wide role looked suspect, but weirdly, he seems to do better there than in the centre.
Pereira 6.5 - after being ineffective in midweek, produced a really good game, with involvement in both goals
Zaza 6.5 - didn't have a lot of service to work with but scored a great goal from nothing
Rodrigo 7 - has been my man of the match for 2 games running, active and always a threat, no surprise that his contract looks to be extended

Lato covered well on the left, Mina had limited options to work with and Maksimovic came on with 5 mins left. All unrated.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Valencia 4-0 Sevilla

Another week, business as usual with a direct rival completely smashed. How high can this team go? At the start of the season most of us would have been happy with scraping into the Europa league places, now that would feel like a let down. I hoped for a win to nil in this game but never dreamt we'd win so convincingly.

As ever Marcelino stuck with more or less the same line-up. Montoya replaced Vidal and Gabriel came back for Garay.

Most of the first period was goalless, with Valencia far superior. Our midfield was bossing their's, with Kondogbia a strong presence, Parejo orchestrating attacks and Soler and Guedes looking ever threatening on the wings. When Sevilla did manage to get forward our defence was solid, with Gabriel and Murillo very active in cutting out any danger, with Neto virtually a by-stander, but looking like a solid pair of hands when called upon. Valencia had several chances, few of them clear cut. Soler cut back to Zaza who was marked too tightly to get a shot off. Soler put in another decent cross but unfortunately poor communication between our players meant that Rodrigo scuffed an attempted overhead kick over when Gaya would have had a clear shot at goal. Rodrigo and Soler missed with attempted lobs from distance and a decent cross from Rodrigo just missed Guedes. Guedes was everywhere, at times I felt like checking the line-up to see if he had a twin brother playing.

0-0 looked Sevilla's best hope and even that went just before half time. On the counter Rodrigo produced an excellent flick on for Guedes and the latter provided another wonder goal, cutting inside 2 defenders before unleashing a powerful shot into the top corner from outside the area. And you thought his goal last week was good?

After last week's scare against Betis, Valencia didn't let complacency get in the way and came out all guns blazing. Soler shot well from outside the area but Rico managed to tip it away. Minutes later, Rodrigo produced another quality assist, setting up Zaza and the latter conjured up a good goal from a tight angle.

Sevilla tried to get back into it after that. Valencia had, unusually, had most of the possession but Sevilla started to even that out only to run into some solid defending. Neto made a good stop, and the back four were ever attentive, but a header wide was as good as it got for them. Mina had a very good penalty shout turned down when the defender seemed to put hands on him inside the box. He got his revenge moments later, with another assist from Guedes letting him slide it past the keeper.

Valencia weren't done. Kondogbia had a great pass to put Guedes away and the latter showed he can score just as well inside the box as outside it, finishing coolly for an excellent win. It's at this point I usually introduce a cautionary note of things that we could do better, just so we don't all get carried away, but I'm really struggling to find one. This was yet another excellent performance to end the first quarter of the season in style. It's early days but we must now be favourites for a top four finish.

Neto 7 - surprisingly little to do but did it very well. Great signing.
Gaya 7.5 - solid in defence while linking up well with Guedes. Showing the quality that got him linked with Real Madrid in his first year.
Murillo 8 - two top games in a row. Handled Muriel like a boss, with great anticipation.
Gabriel 7.5 - a few questions were asked about him after the last game but he answered them with a confident defensive performance in this one.
Montoya 6.5 - quiet but effective game and covered his side well
Guedes 10 - I was pondering whether to give him full marks until he erased any doubts with that cool finish at the end. This guy is on a different level. It's a bittersweet experience seeing him playing this well knowing that every game like this increases his value to unaffordable levels for us, but for now, I'm glad we have him.
Parejo 7 - confident and controlled midfield performance, this season is a contender for his best with us.
Kondogbia 7 - always strong and reliable, lost possession a few times which reduced his rating but produced a killer assist at the end.
Soler 8.5 - very good game, a constant attacking threat and has adapted superbly to his new role on the right
Rodrigo 7 - the usual complaints about his finishing, especially on that chance where he was put in by G.G. and it's a shame his goalscoring run has come to an end. Despite that, this was a quality performance, with two classy assists.
Zaza 7 - his passing at times can be a let down but a really good goal to continue his streak. Fun fact: he has now scored the same number of goals this season as his former club West Ham have managed in total. He must enjoy having the last laugh.

Pereira and Lato - barely noticed them, so no rating
Mina 6.5 - while the other two forwards are getting the plaudits, he's been beavering away and having a decent season, with his third goal. Should have the Copa game to show what he can do for the full 90.