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

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Valencia CF 1-2 Getafe CF Match Report

Rodrigo's Player of the Month Award was presented to him at the beginning of today's game but the occasion would be overshadowed with a defeat. Getafe completed the double over us today, beating us home and away. Both games went in a similar manner and resulted in a red card. There were many factors that could be pointed out for the loss. We remain within distance of 3rd place with only a 3 point difference separating us from Real Madrid who dropped points as well after a draw against Bilbao.


The lineup featured many changes from last week's game against Barcelona. Both Rodrigo and Santi Mina were benched to give a start to Zaza and an out-of-favor Vietto. The suspension of Kondogbia would've normally saw the inclusion of Coquelin but as he is injured, Maksimovic was given the role. Andreas Pereira was given a chance to start as well; whether this was due to a less than ideal performance from Soler last time, or just simply to give him a final evaluation, it is unclear. With Paulista also suspended, the defense saw Murillo partner Garay in the heart of defense. Gaya remains untouched in left-back while Montoya returned after some experimentation with Vezo in that role last game. A rare appearance from Jaume in goal completed the lineup, as he was chosen to start over Neto. I was comfortable with that majority of the lineup when I first saw it but I had a concern over two positions: Vietto and Maksimovic. The former rarely paid off for us this season, while the latter had extremely big shoes to fill despite showing promise in other positions earlier in the season.


The game plan for Getafe was clear from the opening minutes. They would employ a tactic that has often caused us trouble this season: aggressive pressing with emphasis on our key players that transition to quick breaks. It was executed well and paid off, as it has done before. This strategy was helped by having a referee that favored a free flowing game with no interruptions. The play was often allowed to proceed despite harsh challenges. 

Within 16 minutes, the aggressive pressing from Flamini won the ball back from Guedes and the ball found Damian Suarez who caught the defense off-guard with a through-ball to find Loic Remy who took one touch to control and another to slot it to the left of Jaume from the inside edge of the box. Garay had stepped up and was caught by surprise that Remy was onside and complaining to the linesman but there was no question it was onside. The challenge on Guedes to win the ball back was questionable for me, no matter how many times I watch it I can't see it as a fair challenge. I will accept the bias and say it was 50/50 at best and we were on the losing end of the coin toss.

We would have a bunch of half-chances with a header from Maksimovic following a corner, as well as another closer header from Zaza from a free-kick that both failed to hit the target. A poor first-half overall.

The second half would start in an unfortunate manner as Getafe extended their lead. Gaya went forward to press in the opposing half and was caught out of position as the ball was played forward. Murillo went wide to cover for him but Molina would get by him with ease and carry the ball to the edge of the box drawing the attention of the defenders and Maksimovic who also tracked back. This left Remy on the edge of the box with space and he was spotted by Molina who picked him out and Remy would beat Jaume again from range. 

Getafe would have the chance to extend their lead to 3 within a few minutes. A long diagonal ball from Getafe was headed down by Gaya to Pereira who was slower to react than Damian Suarez. The Getafe player then played a through ball for Molina who dummied Murillo and had the net at his mercy but skied the shot.

Marcelino got fed up and resorted to his substitutions, using all 3 at once. Vietto, Pereira and Maksimovic were replaced by Rodrigo, Ferran Torres and Soler respectively. It was interesting to see the fans' jeering and booing at the players who were substituted as their performance was deemed poor. 

The effect of the change would be instantaneous with Valencia playing significantly better. Rodrigo, especially outdid himself, linking up with players all over. He was mobile and created a lot of space. It would take him only 7 minutes to find a goal. Montoya played a one-two with Parejo on the right and the former then found Rodrigo at edge of the box who took a shot as he was turning and beat Guaita with a spectacular finish. Credit to Rodrigo not only for the great finish but by making himself available for the pass and getting into position. A great example for mobile play. 

Valencia would get another good chance with Ferran Torres crossing from the ball from the right, which was met by Zaza who mistimed his jump and missed a great chance. A few minutes later, a run into space from Guedes would be picked out by Parejo. Guedes had tons of space to make it through to the box but was tactically taken down by the Getafe right-back, Djene. He made no contact with the ball, had his studs up and took a player who was just about through onto goal out and yet the referee deemed it only worthy of a yellow card. I don't understand why Guedes does not get the same protection from the referee as other players. He was absolutely battered this game and could've very well have been seriously injured but it often went ignored, especially in that instance. I have no doubt it should've been red. 

Unfortunately, towards the final minutes of the game with continued dominance from Valencia, Parejo decided to foul a player off the ball after the referee seemingly ignored a challenge on him. This was also in the midst of a great move by Soler to get the ball forward, however the referee stopped play, red carded Parejo (straight red, not second yellow). The referee also booked the Getafe player for his previous challenge, (guessing he played advantage). Totally bad decision from Parejo, who had played very well today only for it to fall apart at the end. The challenge on it's own was worthy of yellow but accompanied by the fact that it was off the ball and with the intent of retaliation, the referee deemed it a red-card offense. With 10 men and 5 minutes remaining, it would be tough to equalize against a well-organized Getafe team and Valencia would concede the loss.


0-1 Loic Remy (16')
0-2 Loic Remy (48')
1-2 Rodrigo (69')


Jaume 3.5 - despite Remy being given space in both goals, they were both from distance and maybe he could've done a bit better.
Gaya 4 - decent going forward and linking up with Guedes, caught too far forward for the second goal.
Murillo 3 - beaten too easily for the second goal and again for a would-be third goal if it wasn't a miss
Garay 4 - lost track of Remy for the first goal, other than that looked solid
Montoya 5 - good link-up with Parejo for the build-up to Rodrigo's goal. Not much trouble from his end in defense. 
Maksimovic 2.5 - again he had big shoes to fill and I don't think he could make anywhere near the impression that Kondogbia or Coquelin would have in this role. He's more suited in creative roles.
Parejo 5.5 (6.5 without the red card) - He was having a great game, with reliable passing and retained possession well. Very unprofessional as captain to get sent-off at such an important time for an off-the-ball challenge.
Pereira 2.5 - he seems very lethargic and lackluster. He doesn't look like he has the motivation and hunger we saw at the beginning of the season. Also looks frustrated, don't know if it is out of self-reflection or entitlement.
Guedes 7 - great game and was a constant source of trouble. He always gets dealt with using aggression and understandably so as he is difficult to stop. My only problem is that he seems to hold on to the ball a little too long before playing a pass or shooting. 
Vietto 2 - really not showing any of the abilities I know he has. Needs to be more mobile and active but seems to have lost confidence and know he's on his way out.
Zaza 4 - made a mess out of a great chance by mistiming his jump after a great cross from Ferran. I didn't see much of the pressing game and work ethic that I admire him for this game.


Soler 6 - looked great in a central role. Great job to win the ball back and start a dangerous run, however, we won't know how it ends since Parejo's challenge stopped the play. 
Ferran Torres 6 - definitely talent to be cultivated here. Got into dangerous positions and delivered some useful crosses.
Rodrigo 7.5 - amazing skill for the goal, not only the great shot but to move off-the-ball into space. He seems to gain new skills every game and was definitely a game-changer today. Mobile, quick, and great work ethic.


Getafe played better for the majority of the game. They deserved their 2 goal advantage for the way they were playing and could've had a third. The aggressive style of play is, as we discussed many times previously, one of the ways to deal with a counter-attacking team. I always appreciate a referee that likes to maintain the flow of the game and doesn't stop the game as it gets frustrating for viewers. However, at times, it was too much. The leniency on the challenge on Guedes was the incorrect decision in my opinion but we don't know the degree that such a decision would influence the game. It would give us a better chance for sure, even if the Parejo suspension would follow. However, it remains undeniable that we weren't at the level of a third or fourth place team in La Liga should be at today. 

Another take-away is the importance of Kondogbia and Coquelin's position in midfield. We are blessed to have two high quality players in that position and this is an unfortunate instance where they were both out, for suspension and injury respectively. I think at this time of the season now, we and the coaching staff should have a better understanding of which players we want to keep and which players are better off to be loaned, replaced or having their loan spell be the end of their time here. We have 5 games left to play and, assuming Betis win tomorrow, we need to win 2 of the 5 games to guarantee qualification. With the games at hand, we have no excuse. 

Next week's game is away at Celta and we have to play without Parejo as he will certainly face suspension. Will be great to have Kondogbia back though. It will certainly be a tough game as they have troubled many of the top teams and Aspas is on blazing form. 

As usual let us know your thoughts about the game in the comments below. 
  • Was the challenge on Guedes red-card worthy? 
  • Do we need more protection on our players?
  • How should we lineup next week without Parejo?
  • Which players are irredeemable and should be sold/let go?
  • Who impressed?
  • Who disappointed?
All comments, thoughts and opinions are welcome!

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Leganes 0-1 Valencia

The international break was a good one for Valencia, with Parejo finally realising his dream of playing for the Spain national side and Rodrigo staking an even better claim to play in the world cup, scoring Spain's only goal against Germany. The team usually does well after such breaks and continued that run today, scoring a hard fought win over their favourite whipping boys (played six, won six) Leganes in a scrappy game.

The team selections have been predictable this year. The only questions are usually who will play right back and who will partner Rodrigo up front. Vezo was preferred in the former role and Mina was judged not to be fully fit, so Zaza started again. The one surprise was Jaume starting only his second league game of the season (away to Sociedad was the other.)

Leganes have gained a reputation this season for being a tough side to break down and this was clear to see today. They played 5-4-1, defending solidly and denying Valencia space. For our part, our defence was also really well-drilled and organised. It was our attack that was a bit of a letdown. We never got going and it wasn't helped by Leganes committing a number of niggling fouls as soon as we crossed the halfway line.

In the 8th minute Zaza put us ahead. Rodrigo cut back nicely to Soler and his centre provided the Italian with a tap-in. In real time it did look offside, but the freeze frame on the replay showed that Soler had timed his run perfectly. Unfortunately, the linesman put his flag up. A shame for many reasons, a goal would have opened up the game nicely. As it was, the game after that was mostly a turgid affair. Lots of fouls from Leganes to break up the play, with Valencia eventually doing the same when it became clear that the referee wasn't going to produce any cards. Both goalkeepers could have brought a chair along as neither had much to do. Jaume was forced into his first save in the 30th minute and a few Valencia attacks broke down.

Half-time, little to write about. Next 15 minutes.... the same. A 0-0 draw looked a strong possibility until Valencia finally broke the deadlock in the 62nd minute. The Leganes player took too long on the ball, always a mistake when the machine Kondogbia is nearby. He stole the ball, Parejo toed it to Rodrigo and he took a touch outside the area and beat Cuellar with a low shot inside the near post. Valencia had just about edged the game and Leganes had looked toothless in attack, so it was probably fair.

There were only two real incidents after that. Jaume hadn't looked secure in the air the whole game, punching a few balls he should have caught when under no real pressure. He fluffed a cross and Leganes should have scored from a pull back, but Gaya blocked superbly. Late on, Leganes had a penalty shout when Pereira may have handled. It would have been harsh and the referee waved it away.

A dull game overall. Valencia do well against free flowing teams (like Betis) where we have space to counter-attack but we still have work to do on breaking down scrappy ten-men-behind-the-ball teams like this, where we often look uninspired. I'd have tried a few more shots from our midfielders, several of whom have an evil shot on them. Nevertheless, credit to the team which has 22 points from the last 24 and got a very important three points which takes us even closer to mathematically certain Champions league qualification, especially with both Sevilla and Villarreal dropping points to give us a monster 15-point lead. Overtaking the Madrid teams remains doable and the 77-point record as well: the team has the same number of points that Nuno had in 2014-15 and only one fewer than Benitez had in 2004 at the same stage.

Jaume 4 - the weakest link at the back, never looked secure with aerial balls and punched when he should have collected
Vezo 6 - not a right back, but equipped himself well
Gabriel 6.5 - solid presence in defence and passed out well
Garay 6 - a good game, cutting out any danger before it developed
Gaya 6 - had a couple of key interventions, most notably near the end when he blocked a certain goal
Soler 5.5 - had a good assist ruled out but struggled overall against tough defence
Kondogbia 8 - player of the season would be between him and Rodrigo for me, always a dominant presence in the centre
Parejo 6 - struggled to get involved as he was tightly marked but passed well when he was involved
Guedes 5.5 - did well in the first half but faded after that, no surprise when he was replaced
Rodrigo 7.5 - was closed out for most of the game but made the difference when he had to. Having an excellent season.
Zaza 6.5 - had a goal incorrectly ruled out and worked hard as always

Ferran 4.5 - barely noticed him after he came on
Vietto 5.5 - made an effort but no noticeable increase in quality and is clearly on the way out
Pereira N/A - overall similar to Vietto, has shown the odd flash of potential this season, but nowhere near enough for us to commit any significant amount into buying him

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Valencia 3-1 Alaves

Leading up to this game there were a few worries that Valencia might take their foot off the pedal a bit, after securing an 11-point lead over Sevilla last weekend. On the contrary, the team produced an excellent display, including a first half that's a contender for the best of this season. Blowing Alaves away with a terrific display of football.

There were no surprises in the line-up, with Mina injured, it's Zaza and Rodrigo up front, the usual midfield four, Gaya, Garay and Gabriel ever present and Montoya returning at right back.

Some people may have expected Murillo to partner Garay instead, but it's clear that Marcelino counts on Gabriel. Only Parejo has started more games for us this season and since the start of November, Gabriel has only missed one league game for which he's been available.

The players came out wearing t-shirts in honour of Coquelin, whose injury means he may be out for 5 or 6 months. It was a nice show of support from them.

Valencia quickly took control of the game and pressed Alaves hard. After the opening 10 minutes, during which we were generally feeling out their defence, we nearly fell behind. Parejo lost the ball in the middle and the resulting centre produced a great save from Neto from a diving header. After that wake up call, Valencia really stepped up. Pacheco had to produce a super save to rival Neto's after a move finished with Parejo hitting a strong shot. A few minutes later he couldn't do anything to stop us going ahead. Parejo found Rodrigo and the link up and one-two he produced with Zaza was great to watch. Great assist from Zaza and confident finish.

Alaves couldn't do a lot after that. They crossed the halfway line a few times, but were quickly dispossessed and subjected to another of the waves of Valencia attacks. Garay just headed wide from a corner. Guedes shot just over then was involved in a good move, picking up the runs of Soler and Montoya in space, but miscommunication resulted in them getting in each other's way. Zaza then added the second, sending a good cross from a free kick from Parejo past the keeper.

Valencia finished the half on top, but were unable to add the killer third. Just before the half ended Guedes controlled well and hit one of his trademark strong shots from outside the area. The keeper saved it, then brought down Soler who had been quickest to follow up, but the referee fluffed it, waving away appeals for a clear penalty.

Garay had picked up an injury and was subbed for Murillo at half time. To their credit Valencia came out in the second half not happy to sit back, continuing to push for the third goal. It nearly proved costly as Alaves pulled one back. Gaya misjudged a long ball and the defence were stretched with the pull back allowing Sobrino to fire home. Kondogbia, having a great game as ever, had a chance shortly after, using his strength to create space for himself, but then shooting well over after doing the hard part. Alaves had another dangerous counter attack soon after that, finding themselves 2 attackers versus 2 defenders, but failed to convert.

After that nervy start to the second period, Valencia put the game to bed. Guedes found Soler in space on the right and he crossed towards the lurking Rodrigo, resulting in the Alaves defender putting the ball in his own net. The fourth just didn't come, despite the team trying. Guedes put an excellent cross to Zaza at the back post but the defender managed to get there first. Alaves were forced to rely on an uncharacteristic mistake for their second chance. Neto mishit a pass, but Sobrino's attempted chip was just off target.

Montoya came close to adding a fourth late on, trying to surprise Pacheco with a strong shot and hitting it well, but the keeper produced a good save. Rodrigo and Parejo were subbed off towards the end, presumably to keep them fresher for possible international duty and the game ended with a comfortable and confident win. Alaves weren't bad, but we were far superior and should have won by more.

Overall, Coquelin's injury has been the only negative this week. Parejo finally gets called up to the Spain squad and hopefully he and Rodrigo can produce the goods for them next weekend. Sevilla qualifying for the Champions league quarter finals is bad in that it gives a rival more cash, but it also gives them two more games to distract them. Similarly, Valencia stand to receive 5 million from the Andre Gomes transfer if Barcelona win the Champs league. Fourth place looks locked in now, so the team's targets are probably pipping Real Madrid for third and beating the record total of 77 points achieved under Benitez in 2004 and Nuno in 2015.

Neto 7 - solid performance, handling everything well, with the only blot being the mistaken pass, which could have led to a second
Montoya 7 - decent and confident performance in both defence and attack. I'd like to see Marcelino stick with him for the rest of the season for this position as it isn't good for Soler to constantly have different faces behind him on that side.
Garay 6 - didn't have to do much in the first half, hopefully the injury isn't serious
Gabriel 6.5 - did well for most of the match and passed well from the back
Gaya 6.5 - reasonable performance, assisting in attack as well, though was at fault for their goal
Soler 7.5 - really good day, linking up well with Parejo, Guedes and Rodrigo in several attacks
Parejo 7.5 - confident and assured performance, with involvement in both goals
Kondogbia 8.5 - a rock as ever, good with the recoveries, calm under pressure and nice passing
Guedes 8 - strong game, with constant involvement in the attack. Maybe tries to do too much at times. Will be a big loss at the end of the season if he's not signed and that still looks unlikely for cost reasons.
Zaza 8 - best game of 2018 so far. All the negatives that we've thrown at him in recent months were absent today. No silly diving or dissent. Accurate passes, good work rate and movement off the ball. Needs to maintain this.
Rodrigo 9 - has hit a brilliant run of form. Was a constant threat and key link up player between the midfield and attack and his growing confidence was plain to see.

Murillo 6 - positioning was questionable for the goal conceded, but did his job otherwise
Vietto 4.5 - disappointingly invisible and it's clear that he's on his way back to Madrid in a couple of months
Maksimovic - not enough time, but may get more minutes now due to Coquelin's absence

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Sevilla FC 0-2 Valencia CF Match Report

A great and well deserved away win. Also, a very rare win at the Ramón-Sánchez-Pizjuán. The scoreline may not have done justice to how competitive the game actually was but Valencia was more efficient and walked out with a win. The earlier fixture at Mestalla ended 4-0 and was complete dominance. Altogether a 6-0 win over both games against one of our rivals. This was a 6 point game and Valencia stepped up to the occasion. This takes us back to 1 point behind Real Madrid and now 11 points ahead of Sevilla. That's a 4 game cushion, with 10 games to go in the season.


With Santi Mina injured, Marcelino started Rodrigo and Zaza, both of whom scored last game against Real Betis. With Vietto's purchase option recently rejected by Valencia, I don't know how much Marcelino will use him, maybe as a late game sub.

In the middle of the park, Guedes, Kondogbia and Parejo return after a great last game, alongside Coquelin on the right side of midfield over Soler. I don't know why Marcelino opted for Coquelin over Soler but I would guess that he wanted to reward Coquelin's performances by starting him or to support the vulnerable right-back position.

In defense, Garay returned to the pitch after recovering from his injury, alongside Murillo in the center. Gaya started on the left, whereas Marcelino opted for Paulista over Montoya, Nacho Vidal and Vezo in right-back. This was a bit strange. My guess for this was that he wanted Gaya to be able to go forward freely and shift to a back 3 when he does get forward, but Paulista was also making runs forward. Goalkeeping was unchanged, with Neto still in form.


The match started in typical fashion, especially for an away game. Sevilla pressed hard and to good effect won the ball back and got forward. They were clearly out to get Paulista and just hammered the right side of our defense. A few early advances into the box were stopped by Gaya.

Sevilla's first shot came from Nolito, at around the 20th minute on the right, who won the aerial battle against Paulista and Garay and took a shot at the far post but was saved by Neto.

A few minutes afterwards, Kondogbia had possession in midfield and picked out a great run from Rodrigo behind the left-back, Escudero, with an magnificent lob forward. Escudero paid more attention to the ball and Rodrigo took his chance and ran around him to get into a 1 and 1 position. He remained composed, faked Sergio Rico out with some footwork and slotted it past him on the right to score. Again, when Rodrigo remains composed and uses his head he produces real quality. I heard that Escudero was complaining about the sun in his eyes and blamed it for the goal but it doesn't take anything away from Rodrigo's quality.

Another great chance for Sevilla came at the 31st minute. The left-back, Nayun, made a run forward and sent a low cross towards the near post where it was met by Sarabia at close distance to goal. He took it first time but Neto produced a great reflex save to deny him. He's reflexes have certainly improved over the past few games, well done!

The next few minutes involved some back and forth, with Coquelin snuffing a shot after missing the ball in the Sevilla box and on the other end a Sevilla attack for the right was stopped as Gaya denied the incoming cross. He's done a lot of those clearances on the ground as well as aerial clearances with his head.

Sevilla would get another great chance in the 41st minute. Murillo made a run on the left and took a touch past Paulista and another past Murillo and fired from the edge of the box to hid the top frame of the goal. Neto scrambled quickly and claimed the loose ball. Nolito and Murillo were having a field day with Paulista, I don't recall him stopping a single run or cross into the box from his side.

Valencia would get one half-chance towards the end of the half with Rodrigo starting a run from deeper in midfield and finding Zaza's run who's shot just zoomed past on the wrong side of goal.

Sevilla's dominance in terms of possession and chances created would continue in the second half, with Banega firing a powerful shot from distance which forced a punch away from Neto at first to take out the power and then claim the ball.

A few minutes later, a miscommunication between Coquelin and Kondogbia resulted in a loose pass from the former and possession went to Sevilla at the edge of the box but they fired wide.

Again, another Sevilla chance, this time from a free kick on the right. Sarabia took it and found Lenglet who made contact and produced a shot only to be denied again by Neto from close range.

Valencia would get a rare chance in this as Kondogbia ran forward in midfield and found Rodrigo in an advanced position after the defender slid in and missed the ball. Rodrigo took the shot on the turn and hit the target forcing a save from Sergio Rico. Good effort, as long as the shots hit the target it's a good shot.

A few minutes later, Rodrigo with another chance at the edge of the box on the right, ignored the overlapping run forward from Coquelin and cut inside to the opposite edge and took a shot forcing another save.

Sevilla was clearly dominating the midfield as they had more players than we did there. They opted to introduce Correa and Ben Yedder to add an attacking presence. Meanwhile, Marcelino responded by bringing on Soler for Zaza to play on the right, while Coquelin would join Parejo and Kondogbia in the center.

A while after the change, Rodrigo would start the run from midfield and send a through ball for Guedes who's shot was blocked by a sliding challenge from the defender.

Valencia would go 2-0 ahead with same combination as the first goal. Kondogbia managed to retain possession amidst high pressure from Sevilla, ran past a few defenders and sent a precise through ball for Rodrigo who would find himself in a 1 on 1 again. He looks over his shoulder, realizes he has time and fakes out Sergio Rico again and scores at the far-side.

With that goal, Sevilla lost all motivation and were turned down the effort. They conserved their energy and might have just started looking forward towards their Champions League fixture against Manchester United instead. Marcelino would bring on Ferran Torres to replace Kondogbia who suffered from some discomfort. Gaya would be given a rest as well as Lato came on to replace him and see out the final minutes of the game.


1-0 Rodrigo (25'), assisted by Kondogbia
2-0 Rodrigo (68'), assisted by Kondogbia


Neto 9 - his performances have improved a lot over the past few games. He is now looking more like himself and the Neto we saw in the first part of the season. He's more active, has better reflexes and saved us on multiple occasions from Sevilla's shots.
Gaya 9 - the amount of times he cleared the ball, stopped the cross or won the ball back forced Sevilla even more towards Paulista's side. Was very valuable in defense today.
Murillo 8 - solid performance, was certainly helped by having Gaya screen all the Sevilla efforts from the right.
Garay 6 - decent first day back, I think his job was made a lot harder by the vulnerability of the right-back position. He almost always had to run across and cover for it but was beaten too at times. He needs a bit more time to get back to the flow of the game.
Paulista 3 - he doesn't belong in the right-back position. I'm all for experimenting something new but he just got ran over today. Nolito and Muriel were having a field day with him and he barely stopped anything. His Muriel's shot in the 41st minute was to try to block it with his body instead of getting close and denying him space for the shot. Looked really vulnerable all game. Almost all their efforts came from his side.
Coquelin 6 - decent performance. Often had to help out his teammates in the middle to deal with being outnumbered. Going forward didn't do much but was useful in defense.
Parejo 6 - was outnumbered in midfield and overshadowed by Kondogbia. Mixed game for him, sometimes he would win the ball back and get forward, others he would be invisible.
Kondogbia 9 - despite being outnumbered, he stood out in midfield. A complete midfielder, he participated in almost everything. Great passes, dribbling, challenges, and decision-making. Set-up our two goals with wonderful passes and is yet again a real difference maker.
Guedes 6.5 - he had a few runs on goal where he took the shot but was blocked or went wide. Sometimes, it would've been better to pick out a pass.
Zaza 6 - didn't have many real chances, only half chances but didn't hit the target. He did contribute and showed work ethic by running back and helping out the defense. Held up the ball well at times.
Rodrigo 10 - a comprehensive performance. Not only did he take the two chances he had with such composure, he created space for himself and others several times. He would also participate in the build-up more often, running the ball forward from deeper in midfield. He overtook Santi Mina as top scorer and looks to be at his best form, clearly with an eye on the Spanish National Team positions.


Soler 7 - got involved as much as he could and helped out a struggling midfield re-establish control.
Ferran Torres N/A
Lato N/A 


Despite Sevilla having the majority of chances and possession, Valencia played the counter-attacking tactic to good effect. The team absorbed the pressure and attacks and did well to capitalize on the few chances we had. The Sevilla dominance was in my opinion due to a weak and vulnerable right-side. Paulista just doesn't do as a right-back, he's not in his preferred position, it's understandable. Which begs the question again? How much trust does Marcelino have in the rest of the right-back candidates to prefer Paulista over them? This has been the most rotated position and Marcelino seems unsatisfied with all available options. I think this just reaffirms our need for a reliable right-back. Montoya would be decent as a rotation or if he's lost trust as well, then we could need 2 right-backs.

The other negatives are uncertainty still in terms of the last few minutes for Kondogbia when he walked out with discomfort. We do have cover for him, in the form of Coquelin who has done well when given the chance, but still it would be unfortunate to lose him to injury.

There were also many positives. Rodrigo seems to have found his best form and if he continues like this he could very well make it to the World Cup which would be good for everyone. It would raise his confidence, get him some valuable experience with the best players in the world and raise his valuation. If he can maintain this for an extended period, he can go on to justifying his price tag.

Other great performances were Neto would saved us from the Sevilla efforts that did make it to goal, as well as Gaya and Murillo would helped him out many a time in defense. Kondogbia, as usual, also put it a stellar performances, setting up both goals. The first goal set-up was very similar to the one he set-up for Guedes against Sevilla in the reverse fixture earlier in the season.

This leaves us unbeaten against the 3 Andalusian sides in the league both home and away this season. It was also a great win over both fixtures (6-0) over an annoying rival over the years and a rare win in their stadium. With 10 games to go and a 4 game lead (11 points) over them, we have a great chance to qualify. We could even finish higher up than 4th place since we are hot on the trail of the teams above us who have tighter schedules.

The next game is next week Saturday at Mestalla against Alaves. If we fix up the right-back situation and play as well as we have in the past few games, we should win. Hopefully, we proceed with the same humility and hunger and achieve another great result.

As usual, please let us know what you thought about the game in the comments. Is Rodrigo beginning to justify his price tag? Is this his best form? How did Paulista do as right-back? Have all our current right-backs lost trust? Who impressed? Who disappointed? All comments, thoughts, and opinions are welcome. Amunt!

Monday, March 5, 2018

Valencia CF 2-0 Real Betis Match Report

A convincing home win for Valencia after a few uncertain games. The team displayed great attitude from the beginning of the game and stuck with it all the way though props to them. This extends it to 4 games unbeaten which hopefully we can carry forward next week. Also a rare clean sheet after a long string of games with goals conceded. Last one was away against Espanyol, 15 league games ago. We are also 8 points ahead of Sevilla below us and 1 point behind Real Madrid above us which is pretty secure for now ahead of next week's game against Sevilla. Both are still in the Champions League so hopefully we can capitalize on their heavier schedules.


This is the first time in a really long while where we had no players on the injury list although Mareclino opted to leave out the most recent returns, Garay and Pereira, from the squad to ensure they are fully fit to play. Marcelino started with our strongest midfield with Guedes and Soler out on either side of the core formed by Kondogbia and Parejo. This has been the most effective midfield and it would prove so again. In defense, it remained unchanged from last game with the exception of Montoya replacing Vezo. This defensive line could get even stronger when Garay rejoins Murillo to form the partnership that was reliable and effective for us in the first half of the season. The front featured the most in form strikers, Rodrigo alongside Santi Mina who became our top scorer in the league last game.


The game started very even in the first few minutes with both sides still getting into the game. However, it was clear from the get go that Valencia was going to press the opposition hard even in their own half. This made it really hard for Betis to play from the back. The execution of this tactic was done really well especially by Kondogbia in midfield who would win almost all aerial battles from the resulting long clearances, as well as by dispossessing players all over using his strength. Betis still had a slight possession advantage early on but that's to be expected playing a counter-attacking style. Plus, they really could do nothing with their possession. 

Our break would come 22 minutes into the half. The Betis defender made a run forward to start an attack on the right side (Neto's left) before a pass was intercepted by Gaya. He then picked out Guedes who took a few touches had a look up and played a long curling ball from the edge of our third. The trajectory of the ball fooled the Betis right-back sending him the wrong way. Rodrigo got the ball, took a gentle touch leaving Bartra in the dust, and ran with the ball to the opposite side and curled the ball past Adan. The pass itself was delightful, but coupled with Rodrigo's touch and great finish, it was altogether something else. 

The lead in possession from Betis would extend but one effort they had on target was an easy one for Neto to save. Unfortunately, Santi Mina would pick up an injury under no challenge, so the injury list is not empty anymore. He would be replaced by Zaza who would prove useful from the get-go with the pressing game fitting his style. 

Early in the second half, a Valencia attack started by Soler, found Rodrigo out on the right wing. His cross would bounce off a defender, Parejo tried to get the rebound but couldn't and possession returned to Betis. But not for long, as Kondogbia chased him down and won the ball back with his strength. As if that wasn't enough, he then carries the ball forward, looks up, send a precise lob to find Zaza in space. Zaza controls the ball well with his left foot and finishes with a low powerful shot between Adan's feet. He celebrated quietly and gestures mocking the critics. It was the first time, he's scored in the league since the Alaves game, 17 games ago. Hopefully, this boosts his confidence and we see the return of the hot form he was on in the first part of the season.

It was after that second goal that I felt the referee lost control of the game. I mean there was the yellow card on Montoya which shouldn't really have been in the first half but the second half was just horrible. Barragan who had been going for hard challenges on our players and who had already been booked for a hard challenge on Guedes in the first half, showed no sign of restraint. He kept up these challenges and I'm surprised he finished the game without being sent off. There was also a couple of shouts for a penalty from our end as Rodrigo had his shirt pulled in the box, and Zaza was straight up shoved over in the box when they had made runs into space. Those went unpunished. Gaya who had been lightly pulled made the most of it and fell in the penalty box but the referee didn't book him for diving. The biggest shout though was for the Betis disallowed goal due to push in the box. I got to say the push wasn't that significant, and unless I missed something else, it should've counted. 

Betis would have one more really good chance with a back heel effort that was denied by Neto. Valencia managed to see out the rest of the game without too much trouble. For added measures, Coquelin replaced Soler to shore up the midfield and defense and could've scored one of his own as soon as coming on. Ferran Torres was also given a run out on the field in the last 10 minutes or so, replacing Rodrigo.


1-0 Rodrigo (23')
2-0 Zaza (47')


Neto 7 - wasn't really troubled at all by the Betis efforts in the first half. Nice reflex save on the Betis back-heel effort in the second half. He came out of his area a few times to claim crosses and loose balls, but on the Betis disallowed goal, where he should've come out and claimed the ball, he just stood still.
Montoya 7 - one of his better games, he wasn't troubled all too much,
Paulista 7.5 - great defensive work ethic, helped out his teammates on many occasions.
Murillo 6.5  - I still don't think he's back to his best form, it was a long injury. He's getting there but still had a few shaky moments.
Gaya 6 - mixed game, was great and times and poor at others. Won the ball back in the lead-up to the first goal but most of Betis's dangerous crosses came from his side. Going forward his crosses were lacking. 
Parejo 7.5 - good composed passing, controlled possession and did well to press and win the ball back at times. He was definitely helped by being partnered with Kondogbia. As captain, he did well to give Zaza a talk and calm him down after he got booked. 
Kondogbia 10 - I am so glad we get 15 million plus this guy for Cancelo. Whoever is responsible for that deal, should get a raise. What a game he had, he was everywhere, dispossessing player to win the ball back and starting a counter play, winning aerial battles. Not to mention a great assist for Zaza's goal.
Soler 7.5 - great job controlling the ball every time it lands at his feet. Makes the right decisions, almost always and rarely misplaces anything.
Guedes 9 - delightful to watch, he has a great touch, takes on players with ease and composure. Set up Rodrigo's goal beautifully with a curling long ball. The added creativity to the lineup from his and Soler's presences are what makes this midfield one of our greatest assets. I really hope he stays. 
Mina - N/A - injured, hope he recovers soon.
Rodrigo 8 - great goal. He did well to not only control the ball well, but brush off Bartra with ease and maintained his composure to deliver a great finish. The best version of Rodrigo is the composed Rodrigo.

Zaza 8 - good to have him back on the score-sheet. Did well to control the pass from Kondogbia and finish with composure. The pressing style works well with him who naturally does it anyway. Also did well to maintain a controlled aggression, although Parejo may have helped calm him down which is important for him.
Coquelin 7 - having been on for only a few minutes, he manages to get into space and hit a great low shot to the far post and it took a great save to deny him.
Ferran N/A - not enough time.


Great, much needed win to not only distance ourselves from rivals but catch up to others. It may have helped restore confidence to Zaza who really needed it. It's a shame that Mina is out injured but hopefully the other strikers have built up enough confidence for next week's game against Sevilla. 

Great performances from everyone all around, but stellar performances from Kondogbia and Guedes. It seems Marcelino has got the best out of both of them. Kondogbia especially, this game was outstanding and really did everything but score. They are also both really young and have potential to grow further which is really exciting. They have really helped shape our team and definitely added a lot and I think everyone would love to seem them join permanently. Although Kondogbia's deal is all but certain, Guedes is still an uncertainty, simply because of price tag. Hopefully, a strong finish to the season with Champions League qualifications as well as a few sales from loaned players can facilitate this. 

All in all, it was a complete performance. There was some questionable refereeing in the second half for both sides and every side will plead this case but the win was absolutely deserved. If we play like this in next week's away game to Sevilla, I have no doubt we will win. They do have a tough Champions League fixture midweek plus have looked far from their best, especially defensively on many occasion. A win would put us even closer to maintaining a Champion's League spot as it would push the difference to 11 points. The commentary team was saying something about Marcelino telling players that winning all the home games we have remaining, which are all against very winnable sides, will put us through. I don't know if he did say that or not but we are really close with 11 games to go. It's ours to lose, especially if we win next week. 

As usual, let us know what you thought about the game? How good was Kondogbia? Should Barragan have been sent off? Were our penalty shouts legitimate? Should the Betis goal have been disallowed? Who impressed? Who disappointed? All comments, thoughts and opinions are welcome.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Athletic Bilbao 1-1 Valencia CF Match Report

A tough game at the New San Mamés ends in a draw and two points dropped. The game was always going to be tough not only being an away game but also at the habit the Basque clubs have of giving us a challenging game. It was a narrow 3-2 win at Mestalla earlier in the season and this was another close game. What makes getting one point tonight both better and worse, is the fact that both rivals for the 4th position, Real Madrid and Villareal, have suffered losses this round. We could've overtaken Real for 3rd position and distanced ourselves from Villareal but at the same time they didn't get ahead despite our slip up. 


The lineup is something I have seen criticized by many even before the match on Valencia social media accounts. Marcelino opted to leave out the two strikers most-in-form, Mina and Rodrigo, and play Zaza and Vietto instead. The midfield also featured a lot of changes with only Parejo remaining from the past games. Kondogbia returned from injury, while the big surprises where Coquelin and Ferran Torres starting over Guedes and Soler. These could just be usual rotations from Marcelino but some of the comments I read was that Marcelino wasn't taking the game seriously. As for defense, Gaya, Murillo and Paulista maintained their position in the starting lineup while Montoya was given a rest to be replaced by Vezo, despite having a good game last round. Neto remained in goal.


The match started with a lot of dominance from Atheltic. We were on the back foot in terms of chances, possession and overall intent. In fact, it only took 10 minutes for Athletic to carve out a chance. An attacking move lead by Raul Garcia was intercepted by our defense, after which the ball was cleared by Murillo. The clearance was sent to Zaza who was then robbed and the loose ball made it's way to the space between Paulista and Vezo where San Jose was lurking. He attempted a shot from the left but Neto easily saved. That could've been a goal if he went for the far post, but good save by Neto regardless.

The Athletic dominance continued and we could barely get the ball into their half let alone into their box. I think it was the first time that we actually made it to their box when Valencia took the lead. A cross into the box by Ferran Torres was cleared by De Marcos only to be intercepted by Kondogbia who carried the ball forward and played it to Vietto. The latter found Ferran again out on the right. It was tempting to cross the ball into the box where Vietto and Zaza where waiting, however, Ferran had the vision to pick out Kondogbia who was left in space. This would prove to be the right choice as he took a few touches and curled the ball from right outside the box into the far post past the keeper. First game back from injury and he produces a moment of brilliance which he started himself.

Six minutes after the goal, a throw-in from Bilbao was carried forward by Cordoba who made his way into the box before being dispossessed and falling to the ground. He claimed a penalty but the replay showed no contact whatsoever and the referee saw through it and rightfully booked Cordoba for simulation. Good call.

Bilbao would get a penalty seven minutes after that, as Susaeta claimed a challenge against Murillo in the penalty area. A cross from the right split Murillo and Gaya, then Murillo made a challenge, got the ball and the follow through made contact with Susaeta. I think as such, this was a harsh call but nonetheless the referee gave it. Aduritz stepped up for the penalty as usual, but thankfully his attempt was denied by Neto. Great save!

Athletic would equalize the score only a few minutes into the second half. A free kick taken by Benat from the right was cleared by Kondogbia to the edge of the box where Oscar de Marcos was waiting. Ferran Torres, was caught watching at the edge of the box and reacted late to closing him down and the Bilbao player took it first time from outside the box and past Neto on the right.

The rest of the game didn't have many serious chances. We had one pretty convincing shout for a penalty for a challenge on Vietto in the box but the referee didn't agree. Marcelino brought on Guedes, Soler and Rodrigo but none of them could make a significant enough difference.


1-0 Kondogbia (23')
1-1 Oscar de Marcos (49')


Neto 7 - good game from him. Saved us from falling 1-0 down early in the game and from a penalty. He didn't stand still and actually dove in attempt to save the goal but it was in the very corner and he couldn't get it.
Vezo 3 - when he got forward he would lose the ball too easily with poor passes/crosses or even trying to dribble past the defense. Left lots of space for Bilbao players when defending
Murillo 4.5 - closed players down well, unfortunate to get booked and get a penalty against him. For the penalty, he got the ball but the follow through did make contact, it was debatable but I think he's not at fault.
Paulista 4 - he seems to crash into other players a lot in the box, needs more spatial awareness.
Gaya 4.5 - another quiet game, would've liked to see him get forward more.
Coquelin 6 - another good game, closed players down well and allowed Parejo and Kondogbia to get forward.
Kondogbia 7 - great to have him back and I hope we place high buy-out clause on him cause he really is valuable. Was great in defensive situations against set-plays. Won the ball back in the lead up to the goal and fantastic shot for the goal.
Parejo 4.5 - decent passing, still misplaced at times. Had one free kick attempt but he didn't trouble the keeper. Seems like he was only vocal for that one game as captain, but not afterwards.
Ferran Torres 6 - good work ethic, looks promising. Did well to pick out Kondogbia in space for the goal. Questionable reaction time for the conceded goal to close down de Marcos.
Zaza 3 - gets booked way too easily for me and early on too. For the rest of the game, he then has to be cautious to avoid getting sent off and can't use his physicality which is one of his biggest assets.
Vietto 5 - quiet for portions of the game. Involved in the lead-up to the goal, picking out Ferran Torres out wide.


Rodrigo 4 - didn't get the chance to impact the game.
Guedes 4 - he seems fed up of all the challenges or tired or both.
Soler N/A


A draw tonight but still 4 games unbeaten. The recent games have similar patterns, we get dominated in the early parts, get a goal against the run of play, the other team equalize quickly and we spend the rest of the game trying to get a narrow win or a draw in this case. We did have a decent shout for a penalty after a challenge on Vietto, but if they had taken their chances we could've lost the game too.

Good to see Kondogbia continue his good performances despite returning from an injury, and Neto has improved in recent games. Coquelin and Ferran Torres put in a good game as well.

Marcelino made a lot of rotations and the players do seems really tired. Our games will start getting tougher in the next few rounds. We played 2 tough games against Basque clubs despite them occupying the lower half of the table, and next we have 2 tough games against 2 Andalusian clubs in Betis and Sevilla who are at the top half of the table. We have to play a lot better in those games if we want to win.

The game against Betis is up next at Mestalla which hopefully will carry the team through. The last game between the two ended 3-6 in favor of Valencia and was a great open game with lots of spaces, end-to-end stuff. I hope this game is also exciting and open, and we manage a win. A quick note is that we are struggling to keep clean sheets and we need to work on conceding goals.

As usual let us know what you thought of the game. Is Ferran Torres showing promise? Kondogbia vs Coquelin? Was Marcelino's lineup the right idea? Who impressed? Who disappointed? All comments, thoughts and opinions are welcome.

P.S. I wrote this late so sorry if I missed anything or remembered the events incorrectly. Please correct me in the comments. Thank you! Amunt!

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Valencia CF 2-1 Real Sociedad Match Report

A close-run affair at Mestalla with Valencia barely getting the win. Valencia played the better game of the two and should've won by more but an important win nonetheless. Real Sociedad are placed in the bottom half of the table but it was said before that we shouldn't take this game as easy and it proved correct as they had chances to equalize the game as well. Both sides had usual starters out from injury. Valencia was coming to the game with a 2 game win streak against Levante and Malaga while Sociedad came into the game on the back of a Europa League elimination mid-week.


The lineup mostly remained unchanged from last week's game against Malaga. One change was Mina playing alongside Rodrigo instead of Vietto. We've seen this pairing plenty of times this season and they have a lot of experience playing together as such. The midfield remained unchanged with Kondogbia still out to injury. Marcelino opted for the same midfield that proved vital in last week's win with Guedes and Soler out wide on either side of Coquelin and Parejo in the center. The only change in the back line was the return of Montoya in right-back instead of Vezo. Marcelino kept Gaya in left-back and stuck to the Murillo-Paulista partnership in the middle. Neto remained in goal despite recent weak performances and it seems Jaume will remain as the sub since the Copa del Rey ended for Valencia.


Despite this being a home game for Valencia, it was Real Sociedad that dominated the first 10 minutes or so from the game. They didn't pose any significant danger but they had the possession and won the ball back pretty quickly when they did lose it.

Valencia would get their first chance at the 10 minute. Gaya gets forward on the left and puts a cross in which is met by Parejo who head it over the bar. Would've been great if he could've hit the target at least but he doesn't have the best aerial ability.

Another chance would be created a few minutes later from the right via a cross from Carlos Soler towards the far post where Santi Mina was lurking. However, instead of having a go at goal, he opted to head the ball back for a teammate but there was none there and Real Sociedad regained possession.

Despite having around 70% possession at this point, Real Sociedad couldn't manage to hit the goal from any of their efforts. Approaching the 20 minute mark, Coquelin finds the ball at the edge of the box and tests the keeper with a hard and low long-range effort. The keeper parries it and the ball drops to Rodrigo at an angle to left of goal and he skies the shot, didn't even hit the target. Should've done a lot better. That could've easily been a goal but he could at least hit the target. That's the minimum requirement from that distance and with plenty of time and space.

Another chance would come a few minutes later as Soler was tripped on the edge of the box by De la Bella. The free-kick was in Parejo territory and he stepped up and was clearly going to go for goal. He managed to get the ball around the wall but within the keeper's reach and the shot was punched away.

The increasing danger from Valencia would eventually pay off in the 34 minute. Guedes and Parejo managed to regain possession on the left-side half way up the pitch. The latter starts the counter attack finding Rodrigo who then distributed the ball to Montoya who had made an attacking run. Montoya took a few touches and played a beautiful cross to Santi Mina at the far-post, in a similar position to his earlier effort. He opted to go for goal this time and beat the keeper with a header. This goal tied him with Zaza at 10 goals for the season.

The second half started differently the first with Valencia being wasteful in possession among poor first touches and inaccurate passes. Around 10 minutes into the half, Valencia would pay for this. A goal kick from Neto was passed to Murillo at the very edge of the box. Murillo played a risky pass to Coquelin who was closely marked and the ball was intercepted to begin a Sociedad counter. Paulista and Parejo rushed back to try to mitigate the damage but they couldn't get there in time with Paulista being only a few seconds late. Oyarzabal's shot found the top corner and Neto couldn't do a thing.

Valencia would take the lead again after a period of further possession dominance from Sociedad. Rodrigo puts in a cross from the left hand side and the keeper lets the ball slip after getting a touch on it. Santi Mina who made a run to attack the ball, found the loose ball and took action the fastest and scored again to become our top scorer in La Liga with 11 goals.

Real Sociedad would get one more really good chance to equalize the game at the 80th minute. A free kick from the right edge of the box was taken by Canales who tried to beat Neto from that angle. Neto dove low to make the save on the line, the rebound who bounce off the Sociedad player and back towards Neto who blocked it unknowingly with the back of his arm.

The last few minutes were tense as Paulista would get knocked out and Marcelino having used all three of his subs bringing on Zaza, Ferran Torres and Maksimovic for Soler, Guedes, and Rodrigo respectively. Coquelin covered that position meanwhile, and it was good to see Paulista return to take the position soon after. Valencia held on to the narrow lead and took 3 important points.


1-0 Santi Mina (34')
1-1 Mikel Oyarzabal (54')
2-1 Santi Mina (68')


Neto 7 - a lot more active this game. He came out and collected some crosses before they made it to their intended targets and more importantly saved us from a late equalizer.
Montoya 7 - wonderful cross for Santi Mina's goal, no issues defensively either
Paulista 6 - minus one slip up in the first half where he gave away possession on the edge of the box, had a decent game. Tried his best to fix Murillo's mistake for the goal but couldn't make it. Glad to see he's not injured.
Murillo 4.5 - really silly and unnecessary error to give away possession so close to goal and we payed for it as Sociedad equalized. Other than that, had a decent game.
Gaya 6 - quiet game, did his job and that was that. I don't recall any notable achievements or blunders.
Coquelin 8 - I am liking him more and more every game. Even in periods where we are struggling his work ethic is great. Great shot to test the keeper from range, too bad Rodrigo couldn't capitalize on the rebound. Also won the ball back in midfield to start the counter for our second goal..
Parejo 6.5 - some parts of the game, he was great, others he wasn't. Good effort from the free kick to test the keeper. Would've been good to hit the target with the header too. Poor passes and first touches at times. Was involved in the build up to first goal by helping win the ball back.
Guedes 5.5 - lacked energy and drive that's usually there in every game. Was invisible for portions of the game.
Soler 6- quiet game as well. Made a good run to make space for Montoya in the buildup of the first goal.
Rodrigo 7 - great low cross to find Santi Mina and set up the second goal. Held on to possession well and better than usual.
Santi Mina 8.5 - fact of the matter is, he is our top scorer with the least minutes. Definitely coming into his own under Marcelino. His positioning and runs to find space are his best attributes and the reason why he had two goals to his name tonight


Zaza 5.5 - his work rate when we don't have possession is good and works hard to pressure and win the ball back. When we have possession, he seems lazy and doesn't bother looking to make runs or finding space.
Ferran N/A 
Maksimovic N/A


This game earned us 3 important points and extended our winning streak to 3 games. The game ended up being close in terms of scoreline and they could've equalized and even had a penalty shout. Their best chance came from our own error and misjudgment on the part of Murillo. Other than that, we looked pretty secure. The stats for the game in terms of shots and shots on target tell a story that is not reflected in the scoreline. Despite having significantly lower possession, we had more shots, hit the target more and scored more. We were more effective than Socieded, however, that is only relatively. We could've been more effective in front of goal with a few good chances that would've put the game beyond doubt and earned us a more convincing scoreline to reward the effort. However, a win is a win and the points are deserved.

Our next game is away to Athletic Bilbao. They also find themselves in the bottom half of the table but we have to maintain the humility and desire to win even against lower positioned opposition. I keep saying this over and over but it's the reality of the matter and it can't be emphasized enough. It will be a tough game in a tough stadium away from home but we are the favorites nonetheless. It would be great to build on the winning streak and the confidence of the players with another away win.

As usual, let us know your thoughts about the game. Is Santi Mina our best forward this season? Is Coquelin making a good enough impression to warrant a purchase this summer? Who impressed? Who disappointed? All comments, thoughts and opinions are appreciated and welcomed.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Malaga CF 1-2 Valencia CF Match Report

A win clenched at the dying minutes today. It's three important points nonetheless but it was far from a convincing performance, especially against a side that's occupies the lowest position in the league. This is precisely why every game has to be treated as a serious challenge. There are no easy games


Marcelino fielded a similar lineup to last week's win against Levante. The front line remained unchanged and the midfield featured Coquelin alongside Parejo to cover for the injured Kondogbia.
The defense had the biggest change with Murillo returning to the squad after 3 months on the sidelines from injury. He started alongside Paulista, whereas Ruben Vezo was favored over both Nacho Vidal and Montoya in the right-back position.


The first 10 minutes or so started in our favor with a series of attacking plays. Santi Mina had the best chance in that period at about 5 minutes with a headed effort from Gaya's cross but he couldn't get over the ball and sent it high instead.

After about the 10 minute mark, the momentum began to shift Malaga's way. They got organized and closed down our players quickly and played on the counter. They were kept at bay for a while but not for long. Their goal would come from a set-piece, a corner kick from the left side at the 27th minute. Recio's delivery found Ideye, who got free from Ruben Vezo, in space and he beat Neto with a point-blank header. Two comments here. Vezo turned off and let his man run free to easily and he is partly to blame. Also, the header was played pretty close to Neto and he has remained static yet again. He really needs to be more active and command his area in those set-pieces. He has shown himself to be the type of keeper who doesn't like to roll up his sleeves and get down and dirty so to speak. If the ball is at a convenient height for him, he is happy to make the save. But if he has to run out and claim a cross, or make a dive for a low shot, he hesitates or is lazy or I don't know what. He just doesn't do it.

Malaga's period of dominance would continue throughout the remainder of the first half. Valencia had one decent chance from Guedes from just outside the box, in the dying minutes of the first half but it went wide.

Malaga started the second half much the same. In fact 10 minutes in the second half, they could've gone 2-0 up, if it wasn't for a referee decision that was greatly contested by the Malaga players. A set-piece in the form of a free kick from the right-hand side was played into the box to the far post where is was headed back across to find their left-back Gonzalez in space who beat Neto with a shot from close range. The goal was disallowed due to a collision in the box involving Vezo and Paulista as well as Ideye and En-Neysri. The referee deemed it to be a shove from En-Neysri on Paulista and disallowed the goal, much to the anger of the Malaga players. There does seem to be contact on Paulista but it can be argued that it wasn't too significant. It's hard to tell how significant the contact is from the slow-motion replays. If it counted, we would have been down and out.

Marcelino opted for some changes at this point and brought off both Vietto and Santi Mina for Rodrigo and Zaza respectively. The game changed for the better, with Valencia making some decent plays and getting to the Malaga box but no clear chances to score. Zaza had one effort with his back turned to goal initially, he spun around quickly and took a shot instantly and narrowly missed.

This point of the game featured many yellow cards with the game getting highly competitive and every team was contesting every challenge and asking for yellow cards. Even the benches were getting vocal. The referee dealt with this part poorly, booking certain players for dissent and letting others go.

At one point Guedes went on a crazy run leaving their defense in the dust and was taken down with a tackle by Gonzalo Castro from behind, no where near the ball and studs up, it was only a yellow card. I am glad we didn't lose Guedes to injury after only recently getting him back. He gets the majority of the tackles, with Soler at a close second.

Marcelino would introduce the final change at the 80th minute, bringing on Ferran Torres for Soler. The breakthrough for Valencia would come at the 80th minute from a Parejo corner from the left-side. Coquelin would break free of his man at the far post and make a run towards the near post to meet Parejo's corner and head the ball past the keeper for his first goal. He was one of the players working really hard out there and him getting a goal does justice to the effort he put in.

Five minutes after the goal, Guedes intercept a Malaga pass from inside our own third. He plays the ball to Zaza and runs ahead to receive the ball back in the opposition half, continues his run, plays a through ball around the last man to release Rodrigo in a one-on-one with the keeper. The last man pulls down Rodrigo to prevent the goal and the referee rightly red cards him. It was a fair decision as it was clear goal-scoring opportunity, Rodrigo was facing goal, and was clear of the last defender. The penalty was converted yet again by Parejo to give us the lead and we would successfully defend it for the remainder of the game.


1-0 Ideye (27')
1-1 Coquelin (80')
1-2 Parejo (85', pen.)


Neto 2 - he is far off from what he was in the first part of the season, and his performances have been doubtful and he is losing my confidence. Needs to be more active and take command of his area to claim/punch away crosses and prevent goals like this.
Vezo 3 - was involved decently well in attacking play and put in some decent crosses. Defensively, lost his man for Malaga's goal.
Paulista 4 - might need some time to get accustomed to partnering with Murillo at least till Garay gets back.
Murillo 5.5 - decent return performance, heated battle with Ideye for the entire game, looked solid enough but definitely has a lot more to give when he gets back into the pace of the games.
Gaya 5.5 - better delivery on his crosses, went forward with confidence when giving the opportunity but covered his defensive duties well also.
Coquelin 7.5 - his work ethic and perseverance are admirable. Didn't give up and brought us back into the game with his goal and his performance in general.
Parejo 6.5 - misplaced a few passes, but delivered a good corner for the first goal, as well as a composed finish on the penalty. He picks up a lot of bookings for contesting referee decisions that are avoidable and as captain he should be the calmest, wasn't as vocal as last game.
Carlos Soler 6 - active as usual and is always looking to cause trouble when on the ball. Rash challenge in retaliation to their challenge saw him earn a booking.
Guedes 7.5 - another good performance. The build up for the play that earned the penalty is a prime example of his qualities. Won the ball back in our own third and ran with determination to get the ball back and play a great through ball for Rodrigo.
Vietto 4 - lacked impact and any real chances of threatening or getting in threatening positions
Santi Mina 5 - got into a couple of decent attacking positions in the first few minutes of the game and got one good chance from a header but couldn't control it. Died off for the remaining parts of the game that he was on.

Zaza 5 - apart from the one effort on goal that narrowly missed, didn't really get any other chances to impact the game. Involved in the build up of the play that earned the penalty.
Rodrigo 6 - he got one moment to shine and he took it. Made a great run to get into position for Guedes's through ball and earned the penalty.
Ferran Torres N/A - not enough time.


A narrow win in the final minutes against a side that is really struggling. They looked more likely to score for extended periods of the game. They could've arguable gone 2-0 ahead and then we really would have been in trouble. It should be noted that they have a lot of motivation to put in a tough performance in order to escape relegation. But for a team that sits in third place we're really struggling with the lower place teams. Thankfully, we didn't lose points and we pulled through and capitalized on the few chances we got. We only really started playing 60 minutes into the game with the Zaza and Rodrigo substitutions, with the last 10 minutes where we really took our chances.

Next game is next week Sunday back at Mestalla against Real Sociedad. They find themselves at the lower portion of the table also. Again, we cannot take the game easily and even the lower ranking teams are proving to be a challenge. Let's hope for a more convincing performance in front of the home crowd.

As usual, let us know your thoughts about the game. Is it time for Jaume to be given a chance at first-choice? How did Murillo do on his return from injury? Who impressed? Who disappointed? All comments, opinions and thoughts are welcome and appreciated. 

Monday, February 12, 2018

Valencia CF 3-1 Levante UD Match Report

The bad run of games finally ends with a good performance against our local rivals in the Valencia derby. The win sees us jump back to 3rd place, a point ahead of Real Madrid (they have a game to spare), 6 ahead of Villareal who dropped points but 9 below Atletico above.


Marcelino started with a familiar lineup. The midfield comprising of Kondogbia and Parejo, with Guedes and Soler out wide is finally back together again to start a game. This was the preferred composition earlier in the season and was vital in today's victory. No surprises in the defense with Paulista and Vezo occupying the central positions with no other choices available following Garay's injury. The front featured Mina and Vietto together for the first time. With the Copa finally over, I wonder how Marcelino will use Jaume from now on or will Neto just command the posts barring any injuries?


Valencia started the game with intensity and intent backed by a very vocal and supportive Mestalla. It was clear from the get go it was going to be a competitive game with both teams fighting for it. Valencia needed the win after a string of poor results and to maintain a top 4 position while Levante needed points to distance themselves from the relegation spots. They came in with the confidence of a draw against Real Madrid from the previous week.

It would take 17 minutes for Valencia to find a goal through a corner. Parejo delivered and Santi Mina broke free of his marker and made a run for the back post to meet the delivery and beat the keeper at the back post with a header. Good work by Mina to make the space for himself and get in position.

The joy of the goal would be short-lived though as Levante struck back almost immediately from their own corner. They played theirs short and then squared the ball straight across to find Postigo who had made an unmarked run from edge of the box, past Parejo and slotted the ball past Neto. Neto had about a cluster of defenders in front of him obscuring his vision of the ball and the shot caught him off-guard. The defending in general on this play was lazy. We had them outnumbered in the box and some players just stood by not marking anyone and only blocking the keeper's vision. Parejo, who was just inside the box, could've picked up the run. On the initial corner pass that was played shorted, you can see Guedes standing nearby with Vietto at the right-side edge of the box. He chose to keep his distance and was trying to get Vietto to mark the free man in case of a short corner but Vietto either didn't hear him or ignored him and moved in the opposite direction. Montoya  also started out of position having wanted to do the same role as Guedes initially and then only opting to join his teammates in the center at the very last second. A jumble of errors.

The match would carry on with the same intensity for the duration of the first half and into the second half with Valencia ahead, even in possession. A few minutes past 60 in the game, Levante would score following a corner kick, only for the referee to disallow it and rightly wrongly so after a challenge on Gaya. Replay shows that it was Paulista who pushed Gaya and Coke's goal should've stood (EDIT). On the very next play, Soler took the ball and went on a driving run beating a Levante player, then another, and managed a shot from inside the box. The goalkeeper parried towards Santi Mina who wrestled with his marker for it. Vietto made a run the loose ball found him in space for a straight-forward finish and his first in the League.

Valencia would get several chances more to score. A few minutes later, Kondogbia wins back the ball in midfield and starts a Valencia counter. The Levante players were outnumbered 4 to 2 and it looked to be a real danger if the right ball was played. However, Kondogbia chose to go for glory and fired the shot from the edge of the box, which the goalkeeper parried. I personally think he should've passed as there were available players in space.

This dominance would continue with Guedes doing something similar from the left side of midfield and going on his own wild run. He blasted by players with his fully regained pace after injury and found Santi Mina in the box but he couldn't finish the great chance. A few minutes later, Guedes would find Santi Mina in space again, who dummied the defender to make a great chance but the keeper saved. These were almost certain goals and he should've scored at least one of them to seal the game.

The game would get sealed regardless after a quite controversial decision. A loose ball in the Levante box was contested by both Zaza and a Levante player. Both had an even chance at getting the ball and in their attempt to get the ball, they collided and both went to ground. The referee deemed it a foul against Zaza and awarded the penalty which Parejo calmly finished after some mind-games with the keeper. I personally think it was not a penalty and should not have been awarded. As I said, it was a fair challenge for the ball from both players who went at it in the same manner.

There would be one final chance in the game. A through ball from Guedes would find Zaza in space inside the box but the striker couldn't even hit the target and sent the ball over the cross bar. I expected him to at least hit the target and cause trouble for the keeper but it was quite a poor effort.


1-0 Santi Mina (17')
1-1 Postigo (18')
2-1 Vietto (65')
3-1 Parejo (89', pen.)


Neto 5 - barely called into action so hard to judge as they only had one shot on target. His vision was obscured for the goal and I place the blame on the defending.
Vezo 6 - decent performance, did well in controlling opposition to a 2 shots only in the game.
Paulista 7 (EDIT: 6) - good run of performances, saved us a couple of times with last second challenges (replay shows he could've caused us to go behind by pushing Gaya which the referee took as a challenge from Coke and disallowed his goal. What was he doing?)
Gaya 4.5 - defensively had nothing to worry about, makes decent runs but his crossing seems awful these days.
Montoya 4.5 - did decently well apart from the goal where he was lost in terms of positioning
Kondogbia 7.5 - always delivers and was prominent in offense and defense, had one selfish moment but easily forgiven for his great performances.
Parejo 7.5 - calm and composed, reflected in his penalty as well, great passing, provided the assist for the goal. Good to seem him being more active and vocal as a captain by directing teammates.
Soler 8.5 - awesome to have him find his form again and he made a huge difference in moment of brilliance which gave us the lead.
Guedes 9 - did everything apart from score. He was a constant threat to the defense, tearing them apart with his dribbling, runs or incisive passing.
Santi Mina 7.5 - good sense and sense to make space for the first goal and involved in the buildup tot the second. He's now matched Rodrigo at 8 goals and one behind Zaza with less minutes. It's a shame he couldn't convert the other two chances he had.
Vietto 6.5 - it was an easy goal to score but he did well to anticipate the loose ball and get into position. Didn't help Guedes for the conceded goal. He held the ball up well and had a few smart runs.

Coquelin 7 - as good as Kondogbia is, it makes it difficult for him to get time but I want to see him play more, he plays with such intent and contests every ball, great to watch.
Zaza 5.5 - I still value his work-ethic but in front of goal, seems uninspired.


This win gave us 3 valuable points and a confidence boost after a poor spell of games. The team did well to carry themselves and proceed with the same intensity that we saw flashes of last game. Great to say 2 players who have recently recovered from injury (Soler and Guedes) put on stellar performances and they will be a huge boost to reach our goals for the season. The 4 players in midfield made the difference tonight with good all-round performances. Also good to see Vietto pick up a goal for his confidence and Coquelin unaffected by the knock he took last game. I think we deserved to win this game. With the chances we had, even a bigger margin could've been expected but the finishing from clear chances wasn't good enough to warrant a bigger scoreline. They did have a goal that was wrongly disallowed as well as a controversial penalty against them and we don't know how it would've changed the game had it stood. We did also have a penalty call for us but the referee deemed it a dive by Vietto. The game was shaped by some controversial decisions which somewhat takes away from the win (EDIT).

With the Copa games out of the way and the League being our only competition, we can focus completely on the top 4 spots, a luxury our competitors for the spots do not have. Hopefully, we will also recover more players from injury in the next few weeks. Murillo could be returning in the next while and it would be another added boost. As such, I expect similar and consistent performances in our next games. Next game Valencia is away to Malaga who have really been struggling this season and find themselves dead last. While it should be an easy game, we need to proceed with humility and carry the same level of intensity and determination that we saw this game.

As usual, let us know your thoughts on the game. Penalty or no penalty? Who impressed? Who disappointed? What can be improved upon? Is Zaza still first-choice or do other strikers demand the spot more?

Friday, February 9, 2018

Valencia CF 0 - 2 Barcelona CF Match Report

Valencia went down battling in the 2nd leg of Copa against Barcelona in Mestalla. It was a scintillating game with great game plan from Marcelino. Unfortunately it was not to be, but the players can keep their heads high. My only hope is, now they can be confident in themselves and start being more consistent with this kind of footballing ideas.

               Vietto - Zaza

First Half:
The first half again started out similar to week, with lot of high press from Barcelona. But what might have paused them was the counters from Valencia. Lot more threatening, lot more direct. Marcelino set up Valencia counter attack beautifully IMO. The 4-4-2 version deployed  was very flexible and transitioned into 4-3-3 which transitioned into 4-3-1-2. The way the formations were changing was brilliant with the game plan again being to clog up the middle. Another pleasing thing to see was Marcelino had set up Coquelin, Kondogbia and Rodrigo as robbers! Whenever Barcelona went back to re-stretch the field, the robbers would be waiting for those side-side swing passes. Rodgrio and Coquelin executed the moves very well and stole lot of passes to initiate counter attacks. It was a very well oiled machine! Zaza was pressing Umtiti, Vietto was running in between the line with his intelligent runs and Rodrigo was having an insane game! This is the kind of play I want to see from Rodrigo day-in day out. Had a great header of the bar. Was sitting right in front of Parejo and was finding himself in nice soft zones in Barca defense and when he received pass here, progressed on the drive and then gave nice through balls. Kept the game flowing! Not a single selfish ball hogging decision making. At the end of first half Valencia had the best chance, with Rodrigo's shot of the bar with Cillessen beaten.

Second Half:
Second half started with even more purpose with Valencia attacking Barca higher up the pitch. Boy were we threatening. It's a pity that we conceded the goal at the most inopportune moment. Suarez did couple of moves on Garay who defended him as well as he could and then found a left footed cross far post, where Coutinho finished it with a deft shot. To me Gaya made a mistake in not being physical enough with Coutinho and let him past him, but still Coutinho had to do lot of work with Juame having covered the near post. My reaction is - this is what money will buy you. Suarez turning Garay around or Coutinho finding the only possible solution for goal - Until there is no fair financial policy or acquiring of talent in laliga, rest of the teams will be forced to eat this kind of goals.
Because from what I have seen from financial fair play - if your team doesn't have high quality players for which a team is willing to pay enormous amount you can't afford better players.

Anyhow, the goal deflated the team. Barcelona were toying with us. Hate watching it - just passing to each other and egging us to rush into tackles so that likes of Alba can display some of the patented writhing around moves. Marcelino tried to bring some juice in with Soler and Guedes on for Coquelin and Rodrigo. We played great attacking football but just couldn't get a goal. Garay seems to have popped his hamstring and it didn't look good, Vezo replaced him. Guedes had a good games as well and played in a great cross to Soler, who headed it into Gaya's path whose shot was kept out by a reflex save from Cillessen. Just unlucky. Barcelona scored one more with Rakitic.

Valencia 0 - Barcelona 2

Final thoughts:
This was a great game by Valencia. As I have always said, Valencia always does well against teams that attack as they afford more space in counters.  But what was good today was players were playing free flowing, unselfish football. It was pure joy to watch. This has to be used as stepping stone because on any other day we might have scored 3 goals against any team.

Player Ratings;
Juame - 6: Very hard to save the first goal. 2nd goal also looked to be placed well.
Gaya - 4.5: At fault last week for the goal and same this week. But imo, these kind of mental errors usually have very low probability of getting punished and was unfortunate. Karma will average it out. He should move on as he had a terrific game otherwise. His crossing game was also really great today.
Paulista - 5: Had a great game. Lots of last ditch tackling.
Garay - 4.5: Got turned around from suarez, but defended it as well as one could. Had a great game. His injury looks bad.
Montoya - 6: Another strong game. Slowly is getting back to form which is good news.

Coquelin - 6: Did his job effectively. Was physical but clean in tackles. Stole the ball. I liked his physical game against Messi.
Parejo - 5.5: Had a good game as well and very neat in his passing and defended well. With 2 CDMs around him had ton of insurance, but passed around well.
Kondogbia - 6.5: Such a great physical player and it's super hard to get the ball off him. Another stellar performance.
Rodrigo - 7: I might have given Rodrigo a 9 if the we hadn't lost the match. This is the kind of performance which I want to see consistently from Rodrigo. I didn't even have issues with him taking shots outside the D today, because they were all good situational plays!

Zaza - 6: Made himself a nuisance and played hard.
Vietto - 5.5:  Had a decent game as well. Slipping in between lines and entering into the D with delayed runs. Understood his position and where to press when Rodrigo moved into 3rd striker position.

Guedes - 6: Was a threat on the left. Like how he calmly controlled the ball to let Sergi Roberto slide and the picked out cross to Soler.
Soler - 6: Was a threat with winning the ball and moving it forward. Was all over the pitch
Vezo - 5: Came in for Garay. Didn't notice him making any mistake. Maybe for 2nd goal could have closed down Raktitic better. It was like 4 Vs 2, so just too much to handle imo.