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Friday, April 11, 2014

reAMUNTada!!! Valencia CF 5-0 FC Basel Match Report

reAMUNTada! A historic night at the Mestalla as Valencia make one of the greatest comebacks in Europe from a 3-0 loss to Basel. This win makes the aggregate result 5-3 in favor of Valencia who now qualify to the semi finals of the Europa League. This was one of the best, if not the best, performances I've seen Valencia put up. Everything was done right and I felt the team really wanted to prove themselves, really wanted to win for themselves and for the fans.

At the beginning of the first half no one would've guessed what was about to happen. It started off as a regular first half would start, nothing special. Everyone knew Valencia had to score that first half if they were to have a chance. And that's exactly what happened. Alcacer scored after skillfully controlling from a beautiful inward curving cross from Joao Pereira. That's when something triggered and suddenly there was a belief and a rush of blood in the stadium. Soon after Vargas's header was denied at point blank range by Basel's skillful keeper in the night, Sommer. Vargas would make up for it in the resulting corner, heading it to the top right this time. At that point the fans were out of control and the runs kept coming, I didn't want the half to end.

The second half picked up with the same relentless runs as the first half. Basel was given no chance to breath. And then came the best goal of the night. Vargas pulled the cross back for Alcacer who was making a run towards the box and the youngster fired it off the crossbar into the net. It was really beautiful goal, the best for Valencia in a long time. If you haven't already seen it you should. Alcacer could've ended the game in regular time when he came one on one with Basel's keeper Sommer but couldn't get past him. This took the game to extra time.

Now throughout the whole game, Basel had to sit and defend the barrage of attacks from Valencia and that meant that they picked up a lot of bookings. Two Basel players were sent off in the span of a about 5 minutes and then Valencia took advantage and scored twice, Alcacer completed his hat-trick and Bernat had a one-on-one chance which he converted to a goal.

Overall great night, as we got to see what this team is truly capable of. Comebacks from 3-0 is quite an accomplishment for any team. Basel are no weak team by any standards too, they play quite well but tonight they couldn't do anything. They barely had a shot or two on goal. So this leaves Valencia with a chance to qualify for the Europa League next year. The draw for the semi-final is tomorrow and the possible opponents are Sevilla, Juventus or Benefica --all strong teams. If Valencia continue playing like they did today, then there is nothing to fear against any of these three. Now, this form has to be maintained in La Liga. The team has to be able to put up a good performance despite playing to extra time. This weekend's game against Elche should be interesting to watch in order to judge the consistency of the team. In a few weeks, there will be tough games against both Madrid Clubs (Atletico and Real) which if the team approach like today's game, should be great to watch.

This game has also made me fear for Valencia' stars. The performances of the player's today will not go unnoticed, especially Alcacer's. Clubs have already come asking for him and not just any we are talking European Giants. After today's brilliant performance, his contract must be extended quickly before anyone tries to get their hands on him. That goes the same for Fede and Bernat. Valencia must not repeat what happened with Isco and Alba. The youngster of Valencia are their greatest assets and must be protected.

Squad:
Valencia CF (5) :Guaita, Bernat, Mathieu, Fuego, Pereira, Fede, Keita, Parejo, Feghouli, Vargas, Alcacer

Goals:
1-0 Alcacer, 38'
2-0 Vargas, 42'
3-0 Alcacer, 70'
4-0 Alcacer, 113'
5-0 Bernat, 118'

Ratings:

Guaita - 7.0 - Had almost nothing to do all game except for one or two good saves. I hope he's regaining his form.
Bernat - 7.5 - Great defending, great runs and a goal to top it off. Really consistent performances by the youngster
Mathieu - 7.0 - Took charge of the team very well and prevented any Basel players from even getting in the six yard box. Good captaining.
Fuego - 7.0 - The makeshift center back for the evening was making interceptions quite frequently. You couldn't tell we were missing a center back.
Pereira - 7.0 - Like his counter part on the other wing, made brilliant runs forwards. His cross started the comeback. Was quick to track back and defend.
Keita - 7.0 - Finally regaining the form that made him a first team player on Barcelona. Controlled the midfield and was running around a lot despite his age.
Parejo - 7.0 - Was all over the pitch helping with everything. One moment he would intercept a ball in defense, the next he would be taking a shot in the six yard box. Great partnership in the midfield with Keita to control the midfield
Fede - 7.0 - Linked up well with Bernat. Provided the corner cross for Vargas goal. Constantly creating danger on the left wing.
Feghouli - 7.0 - As usual terrorized defenders from the right with his pace and dribbling
Vargas - 7.5- Great perseverance by scoring right after he had his shot blocked by Sommer. Linked up well with Alcacer and provided a brilliant assist for Alcacer's second goal.
Alcacer - 9.0 - The hero for Valencia fans everywhere. His name will be attributed to this great comeback. Wonderful finishing from the Valencia youth product, scoring his first hat-trick in Valencia. He could very well become the next Villa or yet surpass him if he keeps this up. From being a great player for the youth academy to bad form for the first team and then loaned to Getafe. This night symbolizes a come-back for Alcacer as well. Really proved himself out there.

AMUNT VALENCIA!!!!!! 


Friday, April 4, 2014

Disappointment...

For the past following games, Valencia's performance has been far from great. In fact, recently this is some of the worst football I've seen Valencia play under Pizzi.

The game against Almeria was the beginning of it. The team went up 2-0 in the first half and were dominating every part of the game. Then, when Almeria scored one, Valencia went were struggling to keep up for the rest of the game. Almeria, of course went on to tie the game soon after the first goal and had several chances to even win the game.

Then there was the home game against Getafe. Again, the team started well with Keita breaking a record for one of the fastest goals in La Liga. Then, yet again, the team turned off and Getafe had Valencia pinned for the whole game. Even with two defenders on a Getafe forward, he still managed to score from long range and the rest of the game came tumbling down with Getafe grabbing a second goal and a late third goal.

The series of disappointments was capped off today in the Europa League, Valencia's last opportunity to qualify for any UEFA tournament next year. Despite Valencia playing against a team riddled with injury and at a closed-door stadium with no fans (due to UEFA sanctions on Basel), Valencia were dominated in the first half completely. In the second half, performance was better but still quite terrible. Chance after chance, thrown away, wasted. Now don't get me wrong, Basel is a strong team shown by them reaching this far, they've also beaten Chelsea twice. Valencia is also suffering with injuries, with the most missed being Diego Alves. However, over three games the performance has just been deteriorating and with a final score tonight of 3-0. I don't see a way back for Valencia especially if they play as they have been playing recently.

So what's common between the three games? What happened? Well to be honest, I don't blame Pizzi for this. There have been serious improvement since he has come to the club. The problem I think is with the players. Some players are slacking, some aren't motivated, and other have lost confidence. This is partially because there is no competition within the squad. The first team has been almost guaranteed for a while with no changes except maybe due to injury. So if players don't have to fight for their spot, they lose motivation. Think of all the successful clubs in the world, they all have a competitive squad where a bad performance from someone is an opportunity for another player. As  for the  loss of confidence this is where Pizzi's role as a coach comes in.

What's the solution then? Well as of now, the club is busy with the Sales process. With 7 world wide investors attempting to buy the club including Peter Lim, Aramco, and Wanda, the club is focused on choosing the right one. However, expect a huge output and input of players this summer. There are a lot of contracts about to expire and a lot of players who are not part of Pizzi's plans. Latest report indicates that up to 13 players' future is in the air. In addition, there are several loaned players who are returning. Furthermore, whichever owner comes in is going to spend big.

Let me know what you think of recent performances and any thoughts you have in general about performance or sales process. Also if you have any suggestions on what you want me to write about that I haven't already, please feel free to suggest them in the comments below. Thanks. Amunt Valencia.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Valencia CF 2 - 1 Villareal CF Match Report

In a game that Valencia needed to win to help stay in the race for next year's Europa League, Valencia just scraped by.

 The first half started out very evenly between the two sides with Valencia getting the greatest chance after a superb through ball from Parejo split the Villareal defense and found Barragan, the right winger for the night, who couldn't finish. Valencia started to dominate possession and chances helped by the poor passing from Villareal. The two goals from Valencia came from an unlikely source as CDM Javi Fuego scored a brace with a well placed long range effort and an open net rebound from Mathieu's shot.

The second half, Villareal stepped up but was let down again by their poor passing. They could've cause some real problems had they played at the same level they usually do. Their goal came from Giovanni dos Santos after a failed clearance from Joao Pereira left him in space in the box. A mistake that should not be happening at this level especially if Valencia wants to compete at the highest level in any sort of competition.

Overall, it's a victory that Valencia will claim against a rival. This win will keep Valencia at 8th place, 6 points behind Villareal at 7th and 16 points from Atletico Bilbao and a Champions League spot. It's been known for a while that Valencia will not be in the Champions League and thus are fighting for the Europa League spots. We also lost Diego Alves and Victor Ruiz through injury because of this game. While Victor Ruiz has many available to replace him, Diego Alves is quite a hefty loss and I don't know how Guaita will fill such big shoes. I hope he steps up and proves himself during this period. This win is good though in that Valencia are back to winning ways after losing out to Real Sociedad last week.

Goals:
 1-0 Javi Fuego, 35'
2-0 Javi Fuego, 44'
2-1 Giovanni dos Santos, 83'

Squad:
Valencia CF (2): Diego Alves (Guaita, 21'), Pereira, Barragan, Victor Ruiz (Vezo, 45'), Mathieu, Bernat, Parejo, Fuego, Keita, Fede (Vargas, 83'), Alcacer
Villareal CF (1): Asenjo, Costa, Musacchio, Dorado, Jokic, Oliver Torres (Aquino, 62'), Pina, Bruno, Cani (Gomez, 79'), Uche (Perbet, 69'), Giovanni dos Santos

Ratings:
Diego Alves 6.5 - In the short amount of time he was on made a couple of good saves.
Pereira 5.0 - Decent runs forwards, but serious attitude problem that gets him booked every game. Terrible mistake which prevented a clean sheet.
Ruiz 5.0 - Haven't seen him do much around the field
Bernat 7.0 - As usual good runs and crosses, tracked back well
Barragan 6.5 - Got himself in good positions and made some decent crosses
Keita 5.5 - Had a clear chance at goal that he missed, still wastes possession but slowly getting back to the level required
Parejo 7.5 - Great all round performance, good interceptions, superb passes, and controlled the pace of the game well.
Fuego 7.0 - Was opportunist this game taking any chance that came to him and it paid off twice, once from long range and once for being in position of the rebound. Great cover for the defense as well
Fede 7.0 - Explosive down the left hand side and linked up almost perfectly with Bernat. Cause lots of trouble at the beginning of the game, slowly dwindled near the end possible due to ankle uncomfort.
Alcacer 5.5 - Didn't get much time on the ball or any chances to be of significant impact. Dropped back a couple of times to link with the midfield and had exactly one shot in the game which was on target but straight to the keeper.

Subs:
Guaita 6.0 - Wasn't required to do much saved what he could, couldn't do anything about the goal since it came by surprise after Pereira's error
Vezo 5.5 - did his job decently, like Ruiz didn't have much presence
Vargas N/A - not enough time

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Footballing Giants keep an eye on Bernat

It is no doubt that he is one Valencia's most talented players. A personal favorite of mine since he has the added bonus of being a youth product of the club. However, you can't play this good and not be noticed. Four giants of World Football are already planning summer moves for Bernat. Manchester United, Chelsea, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid all have been reported to have interest in the Valencia star. All of them either in need of left backs to replace their own or to compete with the one(s) they have. There is no shortage of left-backs around so why just Bernat. Well in addition to being superb, he is also very cheap. Why? His contract expires next year, and it still hasn't been renewed. So, if you were expecting him to go for say about 20 million (about the same as Jordi Alba), well you will be disappointed. In fact, he might going for less than 10 or even less than 7 million euros. The club must work on his contract and get it done soon, there is not much time to waste. Bernat is certainly worth a lot more than that both in terms of money and sentimental value to the club. And these aren't any clubs that are interested, these are the top-tier clubs which presents an added temptation. While the player himself hasn't said anything about wanting to leave, the club should work to make sure he stays or if he must, then not for a cut-deal price.

Real Sociedad 1-0 Valencia CF Match Report

This match marks Pizzi's second loss as a coach only, the other being a few weeks ago to Rayo Vallecano. What does this loss mean? It means Valencia sit now in eight position in the league with 36 points, a whole eight point behind seven place Sevilla who are at 44 points. Valencia can still qualify to Europa League though. Since the winner of the Copa del Rey is granted a free pass to the Europa League and both finalists (Barca and Real Madrid) are all but guaranteed Champions League spots like they are every year, an additional slot opens up. It would be better however, if Valencia secure a higher position since 8th is really unfitting of this club.

Pizzi fielded an eleven in this game with a few changes from the mid week game in the Europa League where Valencia won 3-0 away from home. However, the fatigue was obvious. Fortunately, Sociedad were playing cautiously at the first half or they could've dealt some serious damage. With this cautious play, Valencia had the upper hand but simply could not capitalized on any chances. The team then fell into disorder with the players starting to look silly and playing with no coordination. They were literally running into each other and falling on the field.

In the second half Sociedad took advantage of the fatigue and attacked relentlessly but again wasted their chances. Valencia's best chance was a Parejo free kick which was spot on for Jonas but it didn't go in. The four Valencia players who attacked the rebounded ball made a mess of it, couldn't get it in and resulted in a comical scene where the ball bounced like a pin ball between them. The counter-attack from that play, lead to the goal for Sociedad. The strikers weren't getting the ball enough in the game, first Vargas then newly signed Araujo; both invisible most of the game due to lack of possession which Valencia gave up a lot.

While this could all be due to fatigue from the Europa League game, I don't think that's a very good excuse. I've observed a few serious problems with the team these past few games. First, I don't see Seydou Keita as beneficial to the squad. Every game he's been on, he gets booked, he already got red carded once last week (Europa League) and almost got red carded the week before. In addition, his passes often give the ball away. I think Pizzi should consider putting Victor Ruiz back as a CDM (he was used there a few times before by previous coaches) instead of Keita. At least, until Romeu recovers from injury. Second problem is the lack of impact substitutes and bench in general. Valencia can't keep losing games because of fatigue. Also, in recent games, the only substitutions that had an impact on the game was bringing Fede on. It was clear in the game against Sociedad also. Nothing was being done, Fede comes on and suddenly chances are created. Impact subs of this kind are needed. When Michel came on, however, all he did was get booked almost instantly and was almost invisible for the rest of the game. Finally, lots of bookings are being picked up recently and quite unnecessarily. While part of this is dependent on the referring, the players should avoid unnecessary challenges. There was a lot of them in this game. The players can't get into this habit of picking up cards. I mean the past five league games alone we have seen 21 yellow cards and two red cards. That's an awful statistic.

Goals:

1-0 Agirretxe (61')

Squad:
Real Sociedad (1) - Bravo, Zaldua, Martinez, Jose Angel, Bergara, Zurutuza, Carlos Vela, Sergio Canales (Ruben Pardo, 76'), Griezmann, Agirretxe

Valencia CF (0) - Diego Alves, Barragan, Senderos, Ruiz, Bernat (Michel, 83'), Feghouli, Piatti (Fede, 55'), Parejo, Keita, Jonas, Vargas (Araujo, 69')

Ratings:

Diego Alves 6.5 - Did what he could. The goal he could do nothing about but it was a brilliant header. Had some really good saves though that kept the team with a fighting chance.
Barragan 5.5 - Made some good runs forward but produced nothing out of it
Senderos 5.5 - Had some good tackles but a lot of unnecessary ones, the goal happened on his watch.
Ruiz 5.0 - Lacked motivation on the field, he should have used this time to try to earn his spot back
Bernat 6.5 - Good fighting spirit. Linked up well with Fede later in the game when he came on. Had one or two crucial tackles that he made along with some good crosses.
Parejo 6.0- Despite being tired, had spot on passes and some creativity. Almost created a goal but wasted most of the corners Valencia had due to abysmal crossing.
Keita 4.0 - Gets into many unnecessary challenges, loses the ball frequently, rash decision making, really failed to settle in to the club
Jonas 5.5 - Sometimes got in good positions but could not capitalize on his chances.
Feghouli 5.0 - The fatigue was perhaps the clearest on him since he runs a lot. Put in some good effort but was ineffective.
Piatti 5.0 - Perhaps to start the game having just returned from injury wasn't the smartest idea. Very dull and never got into the rhythm of the game. This could be more a tactical mistake than the player himself.
Vargas 5.5 - Follows the theme of the day, ineffective. Largely due to the fact that he barely got the ball cause the team kept wasting it.

Next game is Europa League fixture at home against Ludogorets of Bulgaria. Tie pretty much settled with Valencia up 3-0 on aggregate and all away goals. Should be even better at home.

P.S. Sorry for not posting regularly/on time. I try my best between my university work. I promise more to come.



Monday, February 24, 2014

Valencia CF 2 - 1 Granada CF Match Report

Valencia survive a scare at home, only to clinch the victory in the last minutes of the game. After the late win in Cyprus against Dynamo Kiev on Thursday's Europa League match, the team leaves it late again after struggling through most of the match. This match was also a debut start for both Ruben Vezo and Seydou Keita.

The first half was quite poor. Possession was not made the most of and the majority of the play was impatient. The only shots on goal were long range efforts from Valencia youngster Fede, which were dealt with by the goal keeper. There wasn't many other chances since Granada were really tight at the back and trying to hit Valencia on the counter, which they did several times. One of the times, saw a Granada player go through both holding midfielders, Keita and Fuego, and into the left side of defense, were he was stopped by Barragan, the right back for the evening. Thankfully, none of the Granada efforts went in.

The second half started with the same clumsiness as the first half with Granada immediately punishing Valencia. Fuego failed to clear a ball from defense and basically gave the ball away to Granada's forward Piti, who had no trouble slotting it Alves from that range. After periods of struggling to break down the defense, Pizzi introduces Alcacer to the game for Keita and Jonas for Vargas. Only 10 minutes after coming on Alcacer made a really well timed run onto the end of Feghouli's cross and leveled the scoreline. Recently, Alcacer's runs have been spot on and so well timed which I think gives him an edge over his fellow strikers. A short while after, Pizzi brings in Michel for Fede. This was a mistake in my opinion. Michel has played so badly in recent games and lost possession so many times this game. Every time he gets the ball possession goes to the other team. He did however get some shots on target. I hope the clumsiness today was just the player's fatigue from the Europa League and not something we see next week. Not every time we're gonna get saved by a late strike in the 91 minute. It was Ruben Vezo, on his first start to rescue the team. It was however, a good confidence booster for him.

Overall it was a scare tonight with joy at the end. Squad rotation and organization need to be addressed since a lot of the players on the bench (Michel, Jonas, Guaita) have not performed as decent replacements in recent games at least. In addition if someone like Parejo gets injured or suspended no one can fill the same role adequately. There is a clear lack of alternatives in some positions while overloads in others which should be and reportedly will be addressed this summer transfer window.

Goals:
0-1 (Piti, 47')
1-1 (Alcacer, 64')
2-1 (Ruben Vezo, 91')

Squads:
Valencia CF (2) : Diego Alves, Barragan, Mathieu, Ruben Vezo, Bernat, Parejo, Keita (Paco Alcacer, 53'), Fuego, Feghouli, Fede (Michel, 73'), Vargas (Jonas, 59')
Granada CF (1) : Roberto, Nyom, Coeff, Murillo, Angulo, Rico (Fatau, 21'), Iturra, Reico, Piti  (Foulquier, 85'), El-Arabi, Brahimi
 
Ratings:
Diego Alves, 6.0 - Wasn't troubled too much throughout the game. Saved every shot that came his way and could no absolutely nothing about the goal since Fuego gave it away so close to the net.
Bernat, 6.5 - Great energy all around. Got forward often, delivered crosses and won corners. Tracked back quickly despite coming forward
Ruben Vezo, 6.5 - Great debut, solid at the back. More viable than Costa as a defender and scored the winning goal late in the game.
Mathieu, 5.5 - Tracked back decently and covered his ground most of the time.
Barragan, 6.5 - Great work ethic. Helped out in defense everywhere and came forward often but wasn't picked out often.
Fuego, 4.5 - Wasn't his usual self in front of defense. Very weak presence, gave ball away while covering in defense which resulted in Granada taking the lead.
Keita, 5.0 - Well away from his form at Barca, wasn't his usual self either. Slow and gave away posession.
Parejo, 6.0 - Provided the assist for Ruben Vezo's late goal from a free kick. Some misplaced passes but overall provided some useful passes to spread play and penetrate the heavy defense.
Feghouli, 6.5 - Great effort as in recent games. Provided a great assist for Alcacer's goal and almost assisted a second goal. He was a trouble for defense with his dribbling and many crosses.
Fede, 6.0 - Great energy from the youngster. Provided constant pressure on the keeper with long range efforts in the first half. His presence slowly dwindled in the second half.
Vargas, 5.5 - Invisible for most of the game. Looked really fatigued and slow out there.

Subs:
Alcacer, 6.0 - Instant impact substitution. Made a great time run and was rewarded with a goal. His presence was not felt afterwards.
Jonas, 5.5 - Came on and tried to do something. Provided some composure to a team that was lacking it. Had some good shots but didn't trouble Granada too much.
Michel, 4.5 - Gave away possession time and time again, with bad passes/long range efforts when the team really needed to be patient to find the winning goal.



Thursday, February 20, 2014

Dynamo Kyiv 0 - 2 Valencia CF Match Report

Valencia start off the Round of 32 of the Europa League with an important "away" win. The match was "away" at Cyprus instead of Kyiv in Ukraine due to the tense political situation in the country. As such, despite playing in Cyprus both goals count as away goal for Valencia.

The game was pretty dull and uneventful for the first 45 minutes, with both sides struggling to find even a single chance. The atmosphere was just as dull with the stadium for the most part empty due to the last minute change in location from Kyiv to Cyprus. The attempts from Valencia had that half were pretty much two shots that were way high and way wide from Michel. There was no chance for the flow of the game to develop due to impatient play (taking a shot miles away from goal) and fouls. Possession was frequently lost from both sides and overall it was a pain to watch.

The beginning of the second half was a lot more eventful despite no substitutions being made by either side. Dynamo Kyiv started with a good chance that they blasted high and wide and Valencia were beginning to penetrate the opposing defense. A few minutes into the half and Dynamo Kyiv's goalkeeper leaves the field with an injury and gives way to a younger keeper. This keeper would go on to make excellent saves from Vargas header and a Keita header and keep his side in the game. However, a good corner from Parejo found Vargas for the first goal. And about 10 minutes later Feghouli was found by a Pereira through ball and his shot was deflected away from the keeper into the net.

The introduction of Vargas and Feghouli added a lot of energy into the side that looked pretty weary from either last minute travel or the intense match against Sevilla where they were outnumbered for about 45 minutes. However, we now have a 2 goal away cushion to carry to the Mestalla for the home leg next week. First up though we have a home game at the Mestalla against Granada to get through.

Goals:
0-1 Eduardo Vargas (79')
0-2 Feghouli (90')

Squad:
Dynamo Kyiv (0) - Shovkovskiy (Rybka, 54'), Danilo Silva, Vida, Dragovic, Makarenko, Vukojevic, Veloso, Gusev, Belhanda (Garmash, 73'), Lens (Kravets, 83'), Brown
Valencia (2) -Diego Alves, Joao Pereira, Costa, Mathieu, Bernat, Javi Fuego, Keita, Michel (Feghouli, 67'), Jonas (Barragan, 88'), Parejo, Alcacer (Eduardo Vargas, 60')