Valencia 2-1 Villarreal
Javi Gracia’s coaching job appears to be safe for now as Valencia picked up a much-needed victory at the Mestalla last Friday evening.
After trailing for almost the whole game, Carlos Soler and Goncalo Guedes conspired to overturn their deficit by scoring one goal apiece in the game’s late stages to beat their visiting neighbours.
The Yellow Submarine were in firm control the whole night, but complacency and fatigue got the better of them as they were caught off guard by the grittier Valencia squad.
With the derby win, Los Che have moved up to the 11th spot in the La Liga table – now level with Celta Vigo and Athletic Bilbao and their La Liga 2021 odds of maintaining their top-flight status have increased dramatically.
Meanwhile for Villarreal, they remain at the seventh spot with 37 points. However, Unai Emery won’t be pleased at the fact that they remain winless in the last few matchdays.
This game turned out to be the battle of attrition that we expected since both clubs were hungry for a win. And here at SBOTOP, we take a look at last night’s package of La Liga 2021 highlights.
Highlights of the game
Javi Gracia tried a different approach in his starting lineup, whereas Unai Emery stuck to his old rotation during their loss against Atletico Madrid.
Valencia inserted seldom-used Lee Kang-In alongside Maxi Gomez as their main strikers, with Daniel Wass and Alex Blanco on the right and left flanks.
Moreover, Gracia mixed youth and experience at the back with Hugo Guillamon, Thierry Correia, Jose Gaya, and Gabriel Paulista.
Early on, Villarreal were in the driver’s seat as Dani Parejo and Samuel Chukwueze generated a couple of chances, but their shots went over and wide. On the other hand, Valencia’s Lee Kang-In had his first shot on target that tested Sergio Asenjo.
Fast forward to the 36th minute, Villarreal had another chance when Paco Alcacer found himself open in the penalty area but his low shot was saved again and Gerard Moreno failed to connect with the rebound.
The referees signalled for a penalty kick in favour of Villarreal as Jose Gaya was judged to have handballed inside the box in the previous sequence. That call was crucial as it basically gifted Villarreal a goal care of Gerard Moreno.
Villarreal almost doubled their lead in the 44th minute when Samuel Chukwueze found Paco Alcacer inside the box, but Jasper Cillessen’s foot got in the way of his shot for a nice save.
Valencia controlled the possession in the second half, but Villarreal had another chance to double their lead.
In the 64th minute, Manu Trigueros’ through-ball found Gerard Moreno and he forced another save from Jasper Cillessen.
Valencia were growing desperate to score goals and they would finally capitalise after getting their chance.
Maxi Gomez drew a penalty call when Moi Gomez held him down and Carlos Soler scored the equaliser in the 86th minute.
Valencia would claim the lead for good in added time through Goncalo Guedes, who found the back of the net via a powerful left foot strike after some poor defending by the visitors.
This was a letdown performance for the Yellow Submarine overall as most game statistics were in their favour.
Villarreal had more total shots (25) and controlled 53-per cent of the possession, but Valencia were the more efficient group since they had more shots on target (5).
Carlos Soler finally broke his scoring drought that lasted for almost two months. He now has seven goals and five assists this season. Goncalo Guedes, on the other hand, now has two goals and one assist.
Gerard Moreno remains as Villarreal’s top scorer with 17 goals under his belt.
With last night’s loss, Unai Emery’s side is now winless in their last eight league games.
Villarreal will have little time to recoup given their grueling schedule.
On Thursday, they will fly over to Ukraine to take on Dynamo Kiev in the first leg of their Round of 16 tie in the Europa League.
After that, they’ll visit the Municipal de Ipurua to lock horns with Eibar on Sunday. And then the second leg of their Europa League matchup versus Dynamo Kiev will be on March 19.
As for Valencia, they are slated to clash with Levante on Sunday before hosting Granada on March 21.
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