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Leaders disappointed to drop points at home
League leaders Valencia were left disappointed on Wednesday evening as they dropped 2 points against Villarreal in their rearranged fixture. Valencia came into this one 7 points clear of Real Madrid, and a win would have seen them pull 10 clear on level games, but late drama saw the visitors snatch a share of the spoils. Villarreal were without former Valencia star Dani Parejo, with a calf injury, Juan Foyth and Takefusa Kubo, while fellow former Valencia man Francis Coquelin was unavailable after his red card at the weekend. On-loan Manu Vallejo was also unavailable against his parent club. The hosts were still without Kevin Gameiro and José Gayà, with Eliaquim Mangala and Jason also being brought in as Barlow continued to rotate his squad due to the volume of games.
Despite the changes, Valencia maintained their attacking verve, going close in the opening minute. From kick-off, the ball was worked from back to front eventually finding Nicolás De La Cruz on the left. He cut back for Carlos Soler, who whipped a first time ball into the box, where Maxi Gómez was first to react but his header flashed just wide of the post with keeper Sergio Asenjo already scrambling. 2 minutes later they took the lead, this time coming down the right hand side via a Thierry Correia throw. He found Guedes whose cross was half cleared by Albiol, but the Portuguese international recovered the ball, this time whipping in a low cross which was superbly met by Yunus Musah, who had raced to the edge of the 6 yard box. The American saw his initial shot cannon back off Albiol, but with the keeper already committed and the goal at his mercy, he was able to fire home for his fourth of the season to give the hosts an early lead.
5 minutes later the hosts looked like doubling their advantage, this time from a classic counter attack. A throw in from the visitors was headed clear by goalscorer Musah, and when Pau picked the ball up in the middle, it was won back by Mangala, who opted to send it back to the keeper. Cillessen sent a long searching ball forward to pick out the energetic Musah, who had drifted on to the right, the midfielder this time cutting inside from the wing and firing just wide as he looked to grab his second of the evening. Just before the break both sides had a chance to score, firstly the visitors through a set piece from Trigueros which found former Everton man Funes Mori unmarked on the penalty spot, but despite having a free header he could only direct his effort into the grateful clutches of Cillessen.
The former Barcelona keeper then sent a massive ball forward, met by the head of Maxi Gómez who flicked wide to Jason, who in turn spotted fellow winger De La Cruz in space. A superb cross field ball presented the Uruguayan wide man with a superb opportunity, but his effort with the outside of the boot was too close to Asenjo, who got down well to smother the effort, both sides feeling they should have done better with their chances.
The second half proved to be a far tighter affair, with chances at a premium and Valencia making several changes as they looked to keep the squad fresh. One of those subs, Vieirinha, almost claimed an assist with just 3 minutes to go, knocking a free kick from the left into the path of Gonçalo Guedes, who took a touch then tried his luck from range, his eventual effort flashing just wide of the upright. It proved to be a costly miss as just 2 minutes later Villarreal snatched an equaliser. A Cillessen goal kick was won back in the air by substitute Alfonso Pedraza, and he sent the ball wide to fellow substitute Rubén Peña, who had plenty of time on the right to deliver a perfect cross into the middle for Carlos Bacca, another off the bench, to head home from close range. Villarreal manager Unai Emery will have been delighted to see his changes have such an impact on the game, while in the fellow dug-out Barlow was left ruing the missed chances as his side dropped points for the first time in 7 games.
The other rearranged fixture of the evening saw Eibar come from behind at home to the in-form Real Sociedad to grab a vital point in a 1-1 draw, Alexander Isak with his 23rd goal of the season before Takashi Inui pulled the hosts level. Eibar remain bottom, 1 point behind Cádiz and 7 from safety after 28 games.
Valencia draw blank as held for second successive game
Table topping Valencia were once again left frustrated on Saturday lunchtime as they dropped another 2 valuable points in a stalemate against Valladolid. The league leaders travelled the game after being held 1-1 away at Villarreal in the week, and it was a similar story again at the Nuevo José Zorrilla where a lack of clinical finishing saw Valencia once again slip up. With fatigue beginning to cause an issue, Barlow was again forced into changes, Wass and Zirkzee coming in for Maxi Gómez and Gabriel Paulista, who was suspended. José Gayà was still not passed fit after his recent ankle injury, while long term absentee Kevin Gameiro also remains sidelined. or their part, the hosts were without former Celtic and Notts Forest full back Saidy Janko, out with a broken leg, and Raul Garcia, who had a pulled groin.
There was little to separate the 2 in the opening exchanges, the only difference being Valencia managing a shot on target while the hosts were wide of the mark. The first real opportunity to speak of came 7 minutes before the break, and it was for the visitors. A throw in on the right hand side was met by Joshua Zirkzee, who flicked the ball into the area, and when Joaquín only half cleared Yunus Musah picked up the loose ball, 25 yards out and central to goal. The young midfielder drove forward before unleashing an effort which flew just over the bar. In the end it was the last chance of a half where Valencia had the better of the shots, 6 in total but just 2 on target in a frustrating opening 45 minutes.
Valencia goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen was made to work just before the hour mark, after a long clearance from his counterpart Jordi Masip was missed by Mangala, Guardiola feeding the ball wide for Jota who tried his luck from an acute angle, but failing to trouble the former Barcelona shot stopper. 2 minutes later it was almost repeat affair, this time Roque Mesa pulling the strings in the middle from a Masip punt, chipping wide to Jota who this time spotted Cillessen slightly advanced and tried a lobbed effort, the keeper alert to the danger though to pluck the ball from the air.
It was then the turn of the visitors, who began to turn the screw, forcing the home team to defend with vigour. The first opportunity came via a Wass free-kick, worked through the defence before Jason then Musah switched play to De La Cruz on the other wing. The Uruguayan played a neat through ball into the path of Gonçalo Guedes, who looked lively in the area, but a combination of both Masip and El Yamiq were able to smothered the effort before an attempted cross from Guedes was then cleared by Bruno.
A throw in from Wass was then carried down the right by Zirkzee, the youngster getting to the byeline before whipping one in for Musah, arriving into the area from midfield. The USA international met the cross first time on the volley but his effort cannoned back off Mesa. The ball was fired back in from range by Thierry, this time Zirkzee up inside the box to flick on for fellow strike partner Guedes, but Masip rushed out to punch the ball clear. The ball was then picked up by De La Cruz, and a combination of the midfield trio eventually found Guedes on the edge of the box, his first time effort beating Masip but also the post as Valencia did everything but score.
4 minutes later they went close again, a Thierry Correia throw to Guedes being flicked on for Emile Smith Rowe, the substitute midfielder being allowed to run with the ball, an opportunity he took before firing an effort into the grateful hands of Masip. 2 minutes before the end of normal time it was the same combination again, this time Jason picking up the ball from Smith Rowe eventually and sending through Zirkzee in a wonderful position, but the young striker, on loan from Bayern, failed to get enough on his effort allowing Masip to touch the effort around the post as the hosts held on for a point. With Real Madrid not in action until the following day, it was another wasted opportunity for the league leaders to put down a marker and pull further ahead of the current holders as the title race hots up. With fatigue still a major factor, things aren’t set to get any easier for the current leaders, with Barcelona up next then the Copa Del Rey final a few days after, the only saving grace being that Madrid will also have to feature in that game.
Week 29 in review
Real Madrid were the biggest gainers of the weekend, as they moved within 6 points of league leaders Valencia after their win and Valencia dropping points again. The games began on Friday evening, with Valencia’s neighbours Levante climbing another spot clear of the relegation zone with a 2-1 win at home to fellow strugglers Celta Vigo, with former Valencia youngster Roger Marti grabbing both goals for the hosts.
Following Valencia’s disappointing draw in the early kick-off on Saturday, when they were held 0-0 away to Valladolid, 6th placed Real Sociedad faired better as they chalked up a 3-0 home win against Villarreal, who were impressive in the week as they grabbed a draw with the league leaders. Alexander Isak adding to his goal tally late on in that one, while there was just one goal in the evening game as Athletic Bilbao, who currently sit fourth, won 1-0 away at Alavés. The final game of the day saw Barcelona, who’ve stuttered all season, post another disappointing result at the Camp Nou as they were held 3-3 by relegation threatened Huesca. Barcelona had taken the lead before a hat-trick from Sandro in the second half was eventually cancelled out with a late Barca goal to deny the side currently 3rd bottom a famous win on the night.
Real Madrid knew a win in the early kick-off Sunday would help them pull closer to the league leaders, and they duly delivered after a hat-trick from Norwegian youngster Martin Ødegaard gave them a 3-0 win away to Cádiz, who dropped to the foot of the table hours later after Eibar managed a 2-1 win away in Getafe. Real’s neighbours Atlético Madrid also hit 3 as they brushed aside Osasuna at home 3-0, a win which sees them remain 1 point behind Athletic Bilbao in the race for the Champions’ League qualification spots, although the side from the capital still have 2 games in hand on the Basque club. The final game of the evening saw a goal after just 2 minutes seal all 3 points for Granada in a 1-0 victory over Sevilla, the hosts holding on after being reduced to 10 men following the dismissal of former Spurs and Valencia front man Roberto Soldado after 70 minutes.
The weekend ended on Monday evening with Real Betis remaining in 7th spot after they won 1-0 against Elche, an early goal from former Barcelona youngster Cristian Tello the only thing separating the 2 sides. The defeat sees Elche remain 11th in the table.
Valencia back to best against Barca
Valencia returned to top form as they brushed aside a below par Barcelona 3-0 at the Mestalla on Thursday evening. The league leaders came into this one under some pressure, having drawn their last 2 games, and with Real Madrid winning 2-0 against Sevilla the previous evening, courtesy of goals from Mendy and Hazard, the current holds had moved within 3 points of Valencia ahead of the game. Valencia were once again without Kevin Gameiro although they were able to welcome back fit again José Gayà, while Gabriel Paulista also returned from suspension. Maxi Gómez was also back in the starting XI after his recent rest. The visitors were without Ansu Fati with a pulled calf, opting to start with the mercurial Lionel Messi leading the line.
As expected from 2 sides with such quality up front, there was an attacking flow to the start of the game, as initially Dembélé tried his luck before Cillessen then picked out Nicolás De La Cruz, who went on a mazy run before dragging his shot just wide, all within the opening 60 seconds of the match. It was a similar story minutes letter, Musah winning the ball in the middle of the park, finding Gonçalo Guedes who initially beat Lenglet but was then denied by a well timed tackle by Junior Firpo, while at the other end Dembélé again provided the threat, this time firing over the bar. Barcelona were then dealt a blow as they lost Lionel Messi to injury just 15 minutes in, although they were able to call on Antoine Griezmann, a more than capable replacement for the Argentinian striker.
The hosts were handed the opportunity to go in front just inside the opening half hour, playing out from the back Wass found Guedes, who had dropped deep to receive the ball, and when he then turned and drove into the area on the right he drew the foul from Clement Lenglet, the ref having no hesitation in pointing to the spot and VAR agreeing with the decision. With regular penalty taker Kevin Gameiro still sidelined, Maxi Gómez stepped up and fired into the bottom corner, Ter Stegen guessing the right way but unable to prevent the hosts taking the lead.
After the break, Valencia looked the more likely to extend their lead, and thought they had doubled the advantage after 56 minutes when they once again had the ball in the net. From a move beginning at the back, De La Cruz, Soler and Musah were all causing the Barcelona defence problems with their movement, the ball being worked well between the trio before Soler eventually spotted the run of Maxi Gómez, a superb ball into the box being finished from an acute angle, only for the flag to go straight up. VAR replays showed the Uruguayan had gone fractionally early and the decision once again from the officials was correct.
Valencia did double their lead 13 minutes later, and there was no doubting this time. A Wass throw-in on the right was cleared by Junior, Musah recovering and driving forward before finding De La Cruz. Dest originally blocked the winger and cleared, but he was then caught out by Gayà. The full back used Maxi Gómez on the overlap, and this time the goalscorer hung up a delightful cross to the far post, where winger Jason coming in from the right hand side was able to get up above Junior and loop his header beyond Ter Stegen, his first goal of the season giving the home side some breathing space.
The result was put beyond doubt with 15 minutes to go after a classic counter attack from the league leaders. Collado broke down the left for Barcelona, but his driven effort at goal was easily held by Jasper Cillessen. The former Barcelona keeper hit a long ball forward for Maxi Gómez, who turned his man and drove down the left hand side again, stretching the Barcelona defence before slipping a ball into the area. Fellow front man Gonçalo Guedes reacted a split second before Junior, allowing himself the time and space to latch on to the through ball and fire into the bottom corner beyond Ter Stegen. Although it was a tight call, VAR showed that Guedes had timed his move to perfection, wrapping up a massively important 3 points for Los Che.
The result sees Valencia once again move 6 points clear of Real Madrid in second place, with the pair set to square off in the Copa Del Rey final in just 2 days time, Real benefitting from an extra day’s recovery following their game against Sevilla before the showpiece final on Saturday evening, at the ground of neighbours Atlético Madrid.
Valencia complete shock double as they retain cup
Valencia completed a shock cup double after a stunning 4-2 victory against Real Madrid in the Copa Del Rey final yesterday evening. Los Che, who still held the cup after winning it the season before last, had already lifted the Spanish Super Cup earlier in the season following victory over Barcelona, and were once again triumphant as they overcame Spanish giants Real Madrid. Coming just days after the league clash with Barcelona, Valencia were forced to ring in the changes to freshen things up, Gameiro still out injured but Mangala, Smith Rowe, Racic, Cheryshev and Zirkzee also being brought into the starting XI. Real Madrid were without Luka Modric, Odriozola, and reserve keeper Lunin who had played in every round prior to the final.
Valencia, as is often the case with this team under the stewardship of rookie manager Sie Barlow, began on the front foot attacking from the off, Emile Smith Rowe, brought into the side on the right hand side, going close after just 6 minutes as he tried to catch the keeper Diego Altube off his line, his effort flashing into the side netting. Valencia fans didn’t have to wait much longer for the advantage, however, when they took the lead just 8 minutes later. The ball came off the back of a great attacking move from Madrid, where they completed 20+ passes before Diakhaby cleared his lines for Valencia. Joshua Zirkzee picked up the clearance, driving down the right hand side before whipping in a cross which was superbly clipped home by Gonçalo Guedes, reacting quickest in the middle.
Real Madrid almost fell further behind on the half hour mark, a last ditch block from Sergio Ramos sparing their blushes. A massive clearance from Altube was recovered by Mangala, back in the side, who found Smith Rowe on the right. Zirkzee, this time dropping deep, again carried the ball forward, beating Varane before another dangerous cross into the box was again met by Guedes, this time Ramos throwing himself between the Portuguese attacker and the effort to deny him his second of the game.
Real Madrid found themselves back in the game just 2 minutes into the 2nd half. A Di Maria corner was initially smashed clear by Musah, before Mendy and Benzema then combined to find Eden Hazard at the left hand side of the area. The former Chelsea man looked to find space, and in doing so was caught by Gabriel Paulista, the referee without hesitation pointing to the spot. Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos stepped up, and made no mistake as he fired into the bottom right hand corner, despite Cillessen guessing the right way.
Valencia were back in front just minutes later, courtesy of another classic counter attack. Another dangerous cross from Ángel Di Maria was cleared as far as Gonçalo Guedes, and the scorer of the opening goal collected the ball in the centre circle, taking the ball down the right hand side before smashing one low and hard into the corner beyond Altube, a fantastic finish from distance to put his side back in front.
3 minutes later Real Madrid must have felt a sense of de ja vu as Valencia threatened to put the game out of sight with another counter attack leading to a goal. Di Maria was again the one punished, his cross cleared again by Diakhaby to Gonçalo Guedes, this time finding himself on the left hand side once again in space. In an almost carbon copy of the goal minutes earlier, he drove forward before firing across the keeper into the corner, giving his side a 3-1 lead and in turn claiming himself a fantastic hat-trick.
Valencia went close again with 12 minutes remaining, Diakhaby heading over the bar from an inswinging corner from Nicolás De La Cruz. Minutes later, Real Madrid had the woodwork to thank as Valencia once again found too much space on the counter. This time, Zirkzee got up to flick on a Cillessen punt, and substitute winger Jason found himself with the space to run through, attempting to round Altube but his effort from an acute angle coming back off the post before being cleared by Mendy. Real Madrid then pulled one back themselves with just 3 minutes of normal time to play. Mendy again involved, this time a throw-in on the left, finding Toni Kroos who swept the ball out wide to Martin Ødegaard, who had plenty of space on the right hand side of the box. The young midfielder delivered a superb cross, picking out Isco who volleyed home from close range, replays showing his was just onside as he made it 3-2.
With 5 minutes of stoppage time, Real Madrid pushed forward in search of an equaliser, but in the end found themselves falling further behind after a rash challenge at the death handed Valencia a penalty to seal the win. An inswinger from Kroos was missed by Cillessen but cleared by Antonio Valencia, before De La Cruz then cleared again, finding Guedes again willing to take up the running with the ball. The hat-trick hero broke into the area, this time being clattered into by Éder Militão, who both conceded a penalty and also a second yellow card leading to his dismissal. Young striker Joshua Zirkzee, lively throughout, stepped up for the penalty and fired beyond Altube to seal the silverware.
The surprise 4-2 victory sees Valencia lift the cup for the 9th time, and the 2nd time in succession, while a potential treble is still a realistic possibility as they currently sit top of the table. Despite their financial issues, Los Che have been sensational throughout this season, surpassing all expectation to date in their progress, and this latest victory underlines their progress, while also underlining the challenge the club may face in keeping the rookie manager with several big clubs already thought to be keen on tempting him away from La Mestalla.
Valencia overcome 10 man Betis
Valencia returned to league action with a comfortable 2-0 win against Real Betis as they returned to league action following their spectacular 4-2 win against Real Madrid in the Copa Del Rey at the weekend. The league leaders returned to action at the Mestalla still without the services of Kevin Gameiro, still recovering from his long term hip injury, while Yunus Musah was also suspended for the league encounter. Daniel Wass came in at right back, while it was a midfield duo of Uros Racic and Carlos Soler who were chosen to dictate play from the centre. Guedes returned to the wing, while Joshua Zirkzee remained up front as the on-loan striker looks to establish himself in Gameiro’s absence.
Visitors Betis began brightly, and thought they had taken a lead inside 10 minutes with a contender for goal of the season, only to see their celebrations quashed due to the intervention of VAR, who correctly ruled out the goal for offside in the build up. Juanmi was the architect, laying the ball off for William before breaking the lines, the midfielder picking him back out with a ball over the top which he showed sublime vision to control on the chest for Nabil Fekir to unleash and unstoppable shot into the top corner. Much to the disappointment of the visiting fans, however, replays show Juanmi had strayed just offside in the initial action, ruling out a fantastic goal for Fekir which had given Cillessen no chance.
10 minutes later we saw the first action at the other end, as Valencia launched a counter attack on the back of a poor crossfield ball from William, looking for Tello but being cleared by Valencia skipper José Gayà. His clearance found Nicolás De La Cruz, with the time and space on the left to drive forward, making an angle for himself before he looked to place one in the bottom corner, Betis keeper Claudio Bravo doing well to get down and push wide to deny the hosts. In an end to end opening half hour, Betis then went close again, Gabriel Paulista losing out to Borja at the back, with the chance eventually breaking for Fekir who played a one-two and once in space tried his luck on goal, Cillessen palming clear before Wass cleared the danger.
The deadlock was eventually broken 30 minutes in, as Valencia took the front foot. Carlos Soler broke through from midfield, and when he was crowded out, with 3 men around him, he laid the ball off for Zirkzee who did brilliantly to pick out Maxi Gómez in space. Then it was all about the excellence of the Uruguayan striker, who took a touch to get the ball out of his feet before firing one low and hard into the bottom corner for his 20th goal of the season, Bravo left scrambling, to give Valencia a 1-0 lead.
Minutes later it almost got worse for the visitors, the same trio combining, Zirkzee finding Maxi Gómez, who laid off for Soler, again showing desire to get up through the middle. This time when the ball came back to Zirkzee he went alone, beating Asamoah before shooting from a tight angle, his effort crashing into the side netting with Bravo again scrambling. Betis refused to let their heads drop though, and when a corner was initially claimed by Cillessen, they worked hard to win the ball back, Tello again finding himself causing problems down the right, his cross this time being met by Fekir but cannoning off Diakhaby for another corner, which Cillessen again got up well to claim.
Into the second half, Valencia looked to try and extend their advantage after a long free kick from Gabriel at the back was worked through the middle to Soler, who this time opted for Maxi Gómez. The goalscorer had pulled off to the left, opting to carry the ball forward to get the shot away, but Bravo making easier work of the effort this time. Betis, still pushing for an equaliser themselves, then made their task insurmountably harder when they were reduced to 10 men just after the hour mark. Marc Batra, who had already picked up a booking in the opening 5 minutes, brought down Joshua Zirkzee as he looked to break free, leaving the referee no alternative but to produce the second yellow, and leaving his side facing the league leaders for the final 30 minutes with a man less.
Valencia, unsurprisingly, began to dominate with the man advantage, with the substitutes keen to get in on the action as Jason caused problems down the right. It was from a throw-in from the substitute winger that Valencia got their second. Zirkzee had his initial cross hooked clear from Asamoah, but Gabriel Paulista, who had switched to right wing-back, combined well with Zirkzee, who this time drilled one in low and hard to the near post, where another of the substitutes, Emile Smith Rowe, lost his marker to poke home at the second attempt to secure the 3 points.
The hosts, sniffing blood, continued to push forward and almost grabbed a third moments later, Valencia and Jason combining down the right this time, before winger Jason then used Gabriel Paulista on the overlap, the usual centre half producing a sublime cross which was met by Maxi Gómez, looking for his second, at the far post, only for the assistant referee to flag the striker offside. In the end, Valencia were then happy to see out the win, which sees them maintain their advantage at the top of the table, with the games continuing to come at an alarming rate for the leaders.
Week 30 in review
The latest round of fixtures began with a rather disappointing 0-0 draw on Tuesday evening, with neither Sevilla nor Levante managing to create much of note, the away side certainly more grateful of the point as they look to put some distance between themselves and the relegation zone. Fortunately the later game produced more action, as 4th met 3rd, with visitors Barcelona overcoming Athletic Bilbao 2-0 at San Mamés, although they were massively assisted by the dismissal of right back Ander Capa for the hosts after just 5 minutes. Goals from Gerard Pique and Ansu Fati ensured the 3 points, which saw Barcelona move 3 points clear of the hosts, although still 10 behind Real Madrid with a game in hand.
Wednesday began with Osasuna dumping more misery on Getafe, just 2 points outside the relegation zone, with a 2-1 win, while the other game saw Real Madrid bounce back from their Copa Del Rey disappointment to record a 3-1 victory at home to Alavés, who had taken the lead 10 minutes in before Real Madrid hit back. With Valencia overcoming 10 man Betis, there was another red card as Huesca hosted Granada, the visitors also having to play the last half hour with 10 men, although they were able to hold on for a point, much to the frustration of Huesca who still find themselves in the relegation zone. Elsewhere, Villarreal had loan striker Manu Vallejo to thank as they came from behind to win 2-1 at home to Valladolid in the final game of the evening.
In the proverbial 6 pointer on Thursday evening, it was visitors Cadiz who had most to celebrate as they chalked up a 2-1 victory against Eibar, a result which saw them leapfrog their hosts although they still remain 5 points from safety in second bottom. Real Sociedad continued their chase of the European spots with a 3-3 draw away to Celta Vigo, the in-form Alexander Isak once again among the scorers, as Sociedad twice went in front before Iago Aspas rescued a point for the hosts. The biggest surprise came in the late kick-of, where mid table Elche were 3-1 victors over Atlético Madrid, who dropped to 5th in the table as a result.
Congratulations on the Copa Del Rey win, now to complete the double.
You've done wonders on a limited budget; stock must be rising. KUTGW 👍
Congratulations on the Copa Del Rey win, now to complete the double. You've done wonders on a limited budget; stock must be rising. KUTGW 👍
Thanks a lot! Yeah, doing really well despite the limitations. Players getting fatigued now though, think I've benefitted massively by not being in Europe like all the teams around me, but that could make it double difficult next season with the added pressure of more fixtures and not being able to bulk up the squad sufficiently. Will cross that bridge when I get to it though, still a lot of football to be played…
Valencia drop points but ensure European qualification
It proved to be a weekend of mixed emotions for Valencia as they made the trip to San Mamés at the weekend, a draw with Athletic Bilbao seeing them secure qualification for Europe next season, but also allowing their title rivals a chance to gain some ground on their advantage coming into the game. Once again, having played midweek, Valencia were forced to switch things round with players beginning to tire from the constant stream of fixtures. There was still no return for Kevin Gameiro, although he is back in first team training now, but the league leaders had Yunus Musah available again after suspension. He was brought back into the starting line-up, along with Mangala, and both wide men Jason and Denis Cheryshev, with Daniel Wass, Uros Racic, Nicolás De La Cruz and Maxi Gómez dropping to the bench, fatigue the main reason for several of those changes. The hosts were without Ander Capa following his red card against Barcelona in the week, but other than that were at full strength for the encounter.
It took until the 15th minute to see the first action of this match, a tight affair in which neither team had even forced a chance to that point, and it came for the visitors who took the lead with a delightful strike. A throw-in on the right from Jason was knocked back to him by the returning Yunus Musah, who then dropped into space to take the ball back and unleash an unstoppable strike from 25 yards out into the top corner, Unai Simón even at full stretch unable to get his hand to the sensational strike from the teenage midfielder.
5 minutes before the break, hosts Bilbao hit back with something of a wonder strike themselves. Breaking down the right, first Diakhaby and then Mangala looked to clear the danger as the hosts looked to put the ball into the danger area. The second clearance fell to Mikel Vesga just outside the area, and the midfielder took a touch before firing home, placing one superbly in the bottom corner beyond the outstretched reach of Jasper Cillessen in the Valencia goal.
The home side almost grabbed a second to complete a quick turnaround just 2 minutes later, the ball breaking to Iker Muniain who spotted Cillessen coming off his line, producing a deft chip which beat the former Barcelona keeper but clipped the top of the crossbar and over, much to the relief of the visitors.
The second half proved to be just as cagey as the first, with chances again limited for both sides. With 20 minutes remaining, the visitors forged an opportunity to edge back in front, Cheryshev picking up the ball inside his own half before freeing Goncalo Guedes in space down the left hand side. The Portuguese international, although playing as a striker, drew on his wide man experience as he broke down the left before whipping in a fantastic ball. Strike partner Joshua Zirkzee got up above his man in the middle, but couldn’t keep his header down, and the chance was gone.
Bilbao should then have taken the lead 7 minutes later as they wasted a massive chance. With Valencia pressing, a speculative long punt forward found Iñigo Córdoba clean through on goal, and despite a great first touch to bring the ball under control, the 24 year old attacker then dragged his effort wide under pressure from Cillessen, although there is no doubting the academy graduate should have done better with the chance.
As the game entered the final throes, winger Jason picked up a knock but with no remaining substitutes he was left to see out the game, and the visitors had one last opportunity in the final minute to try and seal the win. A deep free kick from the left was swung into the box by De La Cruz, and with centre half Mouctar Diakhaby getting above everyone to power his header towards goal, many thought the visitors had nicked the win, only for a superb display of athleticism by Unai Simón to ensure his side claimed a point.
The draw means Valencia find themselves 7 clear, with Madrid still to play while for the hosts a point sees them 2 ahead of Atlético Madrid in the final Champions’ League spot, although the side from the capital are also still to play this weekend, and also have another game in hand on the side from the Basque country.
Week 31 in review
Huesca remain in the relegation zone after they suffered another defeat on the road, losing 1-0 away to Osasuna, as week 31’s fixtures got underway on Saturday afternoon. There was nothing to split Alavés and Valladolid when they met later on, unsurprising really with the pair sitting alongside each other in the table at present, Alavés 3 points better off in 13th position. It was all square again when 4th placed Athletic Bilbao shared the points with league leaders Valencia, although the hosts had a great chance to win the game. The final game Saturday evening saw Barcelona secure a 2-1 win away at Levante, ending a 5 game unbeaten run for the hosts and see the Azulgrana claw back some points again both Valencia and Real Madrid, although the reigning Champions had still yet to play. French striker Antoine Griezmann took his tally to an impressive 26 for the season as he opened the scoring at the Ciutat de València, Levante hitting back before Barca secured the win.
There was another early game on Sunday, this time Villarreal the benefactors as they brushed aside Sevilla 2-0 at home, the win seeing them move 4 points clear of Sevilla, who occupy 9th, a spot behind the hosts. There was nothing to separate Real Betis and Real Sociedad in the following game, both sides happy with the 0-0 draw which sees both remain on 53 points for the season, in 7th and 6th place respectively due to goal difference.
European hopefuls Atlético Madrid continued their poor form of late, only managing a 1-1 draw with near neighbours Getafe, the result, courtesy of a Luis Suárez penalty, meaning they have now failed to win in their last 4 games, with 3 defeats prior to this latest result, a run of form they’ll be hoping to halt as they face VfL Wolfsburg next up in the Champions’ League semi-finals next week. Celta Vigo continued to put space between themselves and the relegation zone with a 2-1 win against Cadiz, who remain 2nd bottom in the table, while Eibar remain bottom after a 2-1 defeat at home to Granada, the hosts taking the lead but eventually succumbing to a 90th minute Kenedy goal as they fell again, remaining on 19 points.
Valencia complete derby double
League leaders Valencia ensured they would be in the hat for next season’s Champions League as they inflicted a 2-0 defeat on cross city rivals Levante, a win which sees them complete the double in the Derbi del Turia. The visitors came into the game in outstanding form, looking to complete the double over Levante, who find themselves at the wrong end of the table although they did recently put together a 5 game unbeaten streak before defeat by Barcelona at the weekend. The hosts were without José Luis Morales due to a hip injury, while for the visitors Gameiro was still missing after his hip issues. Levante did have young forward Dani Gómez back though after a thigh strain. Valencia brought Wass, De La Cruz and Maxi Gómez back into the starting XI following their 1-1 draw against Bilbao at the weekend.
Valencia took the lead again after just 15 minutes, although this goal came slightly easier than the wonder strike from Musah at the weekend, although it once again stemmed from a throw-in. The returning Wass found Zirkzee with his throw, and when receiving the ball back opted to drive down the right, beating Ruben Vezo before cutting one back into the area, where Gonçalo Guedes, starting back on the wing, was lurking at the edge of the six yard box to poke home.
Levante almost hit back minutes later, José Campaña and Nemanja Radoja combining well in the middle before the ball was switched wide for Toño. The left back in turn found Enis Bardhi, who picked out experienced striker Roger Martí with the cross, Valencia defender Gabriel Paulista doing superbly to block the shot for a corner, Jasper Cillessen coming out to claim the resulting set play. The Valencia defender Gabriel was then involved at the other end, as he got his head on the end of an inswinging corner from Nicolás De La Cruz, his effort flashing just over the bar as the visitors looked to double their advantage. With the game continuing to swing end to end, Duarte was next to go close as he fired over with Cillessen stretching, although the Valencia keeper may have had the effort covered had it been on target.
Just after the half hour mark the hosts were then appealing for a penalty, an initial Bardhi free kick then being carried forward by the Macedonian midfielder, before he was stopped in the area by goalscorer Guedes. The referee initially hesitated, but upon going over to the pitch side review area to review, decided the tackle from the Portuguese winger had been fair, waving away the protests, much to the dismay of the home fans. They were almost further dismayed when Valencia threatened a second just before the break, with Guedes heavily involved. The winger picked the ball off Musah and was able to carry across the field unhindered, eventually using José Gayà in an overlapping position on the left. The Valencia skipper whipped one in, Maxi Gómez was up first and he flicked the ball beyond the onrushing keeper, but his effort skimmed the bar before going out for a goal kick.
30 seconds after the break, Levante thought they had hauled themselves level, only to be left dismayed by VAR again. Another Bardhi free kick, the midfielder causing havoc with his set plays, was powered home by Portuguese centre back Rúben Vezo, but the flag went up and as the Valencia defenders protested, replays showed he had mistimed his run, going to early and straying just offside before the cross was delivered.
On the hour mark, it was the turn of the visiting team to be left frustrated by the intervention of the video assistant referee, although again the right decision was reached. Gayà threw the ball for Maxi Gómez, who held up well before picking out Carlos Soler on the edge of the box. Rather than opting to shoot, which in hindsight would have been the better option, the midfielder lofted one to the back post where Joshua Zirkzee rose above Rúben Vezo to head home, but again the timing was wrong and the on-loan Bayern striker had gone just too early.
8 minutes later the advantage was doubled, and this time there could be no questioning the goal, other than for the poor marking of the hosts. Levante tried to play out from the back, falling foul of the energetic pressing from the visitors, with Soler forcing the error and Guedes winning the ball back, flicking on for Musah. The young midfielder opted to use Wass, again in space on the right, and the Danish international claimed his second assist of the game as he produced another superb cross, substitute midfielder Uros Racic on hand to volley home through a field of bodies from close range.
There was still time for VAR to have one more say as it ruled out a second Levante goal as the hosts looked to restore some pride. A corner with 7 minutes remaining was initially hooked clear by Diakhaby, and when Campaña swung one straight back into the area, former Valladolid striker Roger Martí, who came through the Valencia youth set up, had once again got his timing wrong, although he made no mistake with his eventual finish. Levante were unable to offer anything further as their cross city rivals maintained their advantage at the top of the table, a result which also ensured qualification for the Champions League next season, while they still find themselves precariously close to the relegation battle.
Week 32 in review
Huesca claimed a vital point in their battle to avoid the drop with an impressive 0-0 draw away at Celta Vigo, the hosts 9 points clear of the relegation battle below them, as Week 32 of fixtures got underway on Wednesday evening. There was another stalemate at the Estadio Martínez Valero as Elche came from a goal down to draw 1-1 with visitors Real Sociedad, who once again had Alexander Isak on the scoresheet, the Swedish international on 26 for the season including 18 in La Liga. With Valencia claiming a 2-0 win across the city against Levante, the visitors once again extended their lead to 7 in the race for their first title since 2004. Cadiz continued to struggle at the wrong end of the table, falling to a 1-0 defeat away to Alavés, a result which could see Eibar move above them were they to get something from their game in hand. At the other end, Real Betis moved into 4th with a comfortable 2-0 win over Granada, with Athletic Bilbao still yet to play.
Eibar moved off the bottom with a 0-0 draw against Valladolid, the point seeing them move level with Cadiz on 20 points but off the bottom spot due to a superior goal difference. There were goals a plenty in the other 8 PM kick off, however, as Villarreal thumped Getafe 5-2 at the Estadio de la Cerámica. The home side raced into a 3-0 lead before Getafe pulled one back, then grabbing another 2 including another strike for on loan Valencia striker Manu Vallejo before Getafe restored some pride with a late second. The performance of the evening, and midweek overall, undoubtedly came at San Mamés where Real Madrid underlined their credentials with an emphatic 4-1 win against Athletic Bilbao. The Basque side, who recently held league leaders Valencia to a 1-1 draw, came completely unstuck against the reigning champions, with Eden Hazard scoring twice as the gap at the top was once again reduced to just four points. The result was also a boost for Real Betis, who now remain in 4th spot at end of the current round, although Atlético Madrid currently have 2 games in hand on those ahead of them, due in large to their excellent progress in the Champions League, where they claimed an impressive 2-0 win on the evening against Wolfsburg at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Valencia dominate Alavés
League leaders Valencia maintained their hopes of a first title win in over a decade as they swept aside Alavés with a fine display of attacking football at the Mestalla on Saturday afternoon. The early kick off had the potential to be a banana skin for the hosts, who continue to face a gruelling fixture list as the season draws to a close, but the fans need not have worried as Valencia looked comfortable throughout in a game they created plenty of chances to score. Rookie manager Barlow made just 2 changes, with Eliaquim Mangala and Jason being brought into the side, the latter on the wing with Guedes being pushed back up front.
First chance of the afternoon fell to the visitors just 2 minutes in. A flick on by Rochina was picked up by Lucas, and when he found Joselu with the through ball the former
Newcastle striker could only fire his effort straight down the throat of Jasper Cillessen. Minutes later there was an opportunity at the other end, this time a José Gayà free kick on the left being carried forward by Musah, who in turn found Guedes 25 yards out with his back to goal. The striker opted for the reverse pass to Jason, and when the ball was cut out Gabriel Paulista was on hand to fire a cross back into the area, Maxi Gómez connecting on the volley but his effort flashing just wide of the right hand post.
Another Gayà free kick caused problems 10 minutes in, this time a deep ball from just inside the Alavés half, his dead ball picking out Musah, who via Diakhaby then spotted the run of Guedes, peeling off to the right. The Portuguese striker opted to deliver a cross, Maxi Gómez again the intended target but this time his effort was well blocked by Florian Lejeune before being cleared to safety by Pina.
Despite the clear dominance, Valencia weren’t having it all their own way as Alavés again went close 17 minutes in. A long punt forward by Pacheco in the Alavés goal was flicked on by Lucas, Joselu picking up and then laying off for Rochina, who played a one-two with Lucas before spotting the run of Pons through the middle, the midfielder firing his effort just over the bar with Cillessen at full stretch. Pacheco was then called into action again as he did well to turn away an effort from Guedes, the front man doing superbly well to chest down a speculative ball forward from Gayà before getting his shot away.
Valencia will have felt they should have taken the lead into the break, but took just one minute after half-time to underline that point as they took the lead. Skipper Gayà won the ball off Joselu, carrying the ball into space in midfield before picking out Jason in space on the right. The recalled winger delivered a superb cross to pick out Maxi Gómez on the penalty spot, the Uruguayan striker just having to divert the effort goalwards with his head to put Valencia in front.
With less than 10 minutes of the second period gone, the lead was almost doubled, this time the woodwork coming to the rescue of the visitors. Gabriel Paulista attacked down the right, his final ball finding Jason on the byline, the winger this time opting to cut back to the supporting full back. Gabriel Paulista showed great composure to steal a yard on Pons before his far post cross found De La Cruz unmarked at the back stick, but with the winger always stretching to connect, his header cannoned back off the bar before the danger was cleared.
Home side Valencia were continuing to enjoy dominance down the wings, so it was no surprise when just after the hour a second goal came, courtesy of another cross. Jason was again heavily involved down the right, breaking again to the byline before standing up a cross which was half cleared by Ximo Navarro, but De La Cruz was quickest to react on the other wing, swinging the ball in again to find Maxi Gómez, who this time got the better of Ely, to head home from close range.
6 minutes later Valencia had a third as the floodgates threatened to open. Substitute Daniel Wass won the ball in midfield, picking out Maxi Gómez who had peeled free on the left of the attack, and this time the striker opted to beat Lejeune, cutting round the outside, before his delivery was met at the far post by winger Jason, who headed home to claim his second goal of the season. It was no less than the winger, who had been impressive throughout, deserved, although Alavés should question their marking which allowed him so much space to power his header beyond Pacheco.
Alavés troubles almost deepened inside the final 10 minutes, as Lucas was lucky not to receive a straight red as he flew in on Uros Racic in the middle of the park, a VAR review deciding that no dismissal was necessary although the challenge did appear reckless. Valencia punished the visitors further 3 minutes later as they fired home a fourth of the afternoon. A rare appearance for Boško Šutalo off the bench, the defender carried the ball forward before picking out fellow substitute Denis Cheryshev on the left wing. His deep cross was met by fellow winger Jason, looking for his second of the game as he smashed one low and hard towards the far post. Pacheco did superbly to get down and keep it out, only to watch on in horror as Maxi Gómez was on hand to roll the ball into the empty net, completing his hat-trick with the easiest chance of the day.
Alavés did restore some pride with a goal of their own deep into stoppage time, veteran midfielder Manu Garcia with a searching ball forward picking out Lucas, who made no mistake with a clever finish beyond Cillessen for his 13th goal of the season. It was scant consolation for the visitors, however, who were picked apart by Valencia throughout, the hosts having 21 efforts during the game, the win seeing them re-extend their lead at the top to 7 points with Real Madrid in action the following evening.
Week 33 in review
With Valencia sweeping aside Alavés 4-1 in the early kick off on Saturday, there were another 4 goals in the afternoon game, this time as Sevilla cruised to a 4-0 victory at home against Elche, with Luuk De Jong rounding off the victory deep into stoppage time, Sevilla currently 9th in the table, while Elche sit in 13th. There was even more stoppage time drama as relegation threatened Cadiz hosted Osasuna, the hosts thinking they’d done enough to earn a massive 3 points with a 91st minute goal, only to face heartbreak just 3 minutes later as Jony rescued a point for the visitors. The final game of the evening was a more standard affair, Barcelona comfortably overcoming Celta Vigo 2-0 at the Camp Nou to keep their Champion’s League qualification on track.
After the goal fest on Saturday lunch, Sunday served up a turgid affair as Granada and Villarreal played out a 0-0 stalemate in the early game, visitors Villarreal also being reduced to 10 men at the death. Honours were also even as Getafe hosted Levante, both sides needing points to put space between themselves and the drop zone, but the 1-1 draw seeing both remain just outside the relegation places in 17th and 16th respectively at the end of the day. Thankfully there were more goals as Real Sociedad hosted Atlético Madrid, although again neither side could do enough to take all 3 points, a 2-2 draw the final outcome between two more teams who find themselves adjacent in the table, although Atlético will definitely be feeling more confident of at least securing Europa league football next season now as they still have 2 games in hand on those around them.
There was no such trouble for neighbours Real Madrid, who romped to a 4-0 victory against Real Betis, the result doing a massive favour for their cross city rivals in the race for fourth position. The reigning champions looked comfortable throughout, with a double salvo from Di Maria among the goals. Huesca gave their survival hopes a massive boost as they thrashed bottom side Eibar 3-0, a result which sees them pull level on points with Getafe, although with a far worse goal difference seeing them remain in the relegation zone.
The final action of the weekend came on Monday evening at the José Zorrilla Stadium, where hosts Valladolid inflicted a dent on Athletic Bilbao‘s hopes of European qualification with a 2-0 victory, both goals coming in the opening 16 minutes of the game. Valladolid move above Celta Vigo with the win, while Bilbao remain 6th, on level points with both Atlético Madrid and rivals Real Sociedad.
Doménech set for pastures new
News has emerged today that Valencia goalkeeper Jaume Doménech looks set to leave the Spanish side at the end of the season. The 30 year old shot stopper has, in large, been backup for first choice Jasper Cillessen at the club in what has been an extremely successful campaign to date, making a total of just 6 starts, 3 coming in a successful Copa Del Rey run which saw the club pick up the silverware with an impressive 4-2 win over Real Madrid, although the former Villarreal keeper was on the bench for that one. He has also made 3 appearances for the club in La Liga, where they currently sit top with the title race set to go to the wire, Real Madrid again the likely challengers. His last appearance came back in March, where he kept a clean sheet in a 2-0 win over Atlético Madrid in the 2nd leg of the Copa Del Rey semi-final at the Wanda Metropolitano, a result which saw his side overturn a 1-0 deficit from the first leg to reach the final of the competition, ironically also scheduled to be held at the Atlético stadium.
Born in the Valencian region, Doménech began his youth career with Villarreal, appearing primarily for the C team in his first year as a professional, before then heading out to join another regional side, Onda, on loan for the season, where he was to make 33 appearances in the Tercera. Following a further spell back at parent club Villarreal, again with the C team, El Palo and then Huracán were next to benefit from the keeper, both narrowly avoiding the drop with him instilled as number one choice, Huracán Valencia also cementing his step up a tier to the Segunda B.
He then made his switch to Valencia in the summer of 2013, where he was to again feature in the Segunda B, this time with the Valencia B squad, where he became a regular choice before being promoted to the first team set-up under the stewardship of current Wolves manager Nuno Espírito Santo. Just months after making the step up, he was called into action as both regular keepers Mathew Ryan and Diego Alves were injured, making his professional debut and keeping a clean sheet in a 1-0 away win against Sporting Gijón, a performance which also earned him a man of the match award. This led the club to immediately extend his contract, and he went on to make 17 appearances in his first year with the club. Appearances became more sporadic each following season, where again he played large chunks as back up waiting for his opportunity, leading to him having made just 47 league appearances to date during his 6 years with the first team. He does, however, also have two Copa Del Rey winners’ medals in his collection.
With his pathway currently blocked since the arrival of Dutch number 1 Jasper Cillessen from Barcelona in 2019, Doménech now feels the time is right for a new challenge, especially given his age and his desire to see out his career with more first team opportunities, and with the club in recognition of his loyalty and service, it appears they have agreed to grant the 6′ 2″ keeper a move in the summer, providing a suitable offer is presented. It is unsure whether that means the club will now look to promote from within, with only 2 recognised keepers in the first team squad, or bring in a new face as competition for Cillessen in the summer. Potential options include 23 year old Cristian Rivero, who already has over 100 league appearances with the “B” side, or even youngster Andrés Céspedes, currently on loan with Hospitalet and a regular in the Spanish Under 19 squad. Whatever happens, the club, and Doménech, will be hoping his potential final season with the club will see him also leave with a La Liga title, with the club currently in prime position to win the league for the first time in nearly 2 decades.
Valencia hammer Elche to remain on course
Valencia were once again in impressive form at the weekend as they hammered fellow Valencian community club Elche 4-0 to maintain their league title aspirations. Despite nearly 200km separating the two sides, the visitors from near Alicante still see Valencia as a local rival, and will have been disappointed although respectful to be swept away by such a confident performance. Valencia made just one change to their starting line-up, Daniel Wass, who was initially a doubt after picking up a knock in training during the week, coming in at right-back, with Gabriel Paulista reverting to his usual spot in a centre half pairing with Diakhaby, Eliaquim Mangala making way. There was added delight for the home fans as veteran striker Kevin Gameiro also returned to the bench after a long term absence with a hip injury.
The visitors were quickest out of the block, far from awed by their more illustrious neighbours, they went close after just 2 minutes. Carrillo did well to hold the ball up, before bring Fidel Chaves into action, the attacker losing Wass before firing a warning shot across the face of Cillessen in goal. Sadly, for the visitors, it was the last real chance of note as Valencia unsurprisingly reacted by taking the lead 10 minutes later.
A free kick swung in by De La Cruz was initially cleared by Dani Calvo, but Gonçalo Guedes recovered, driving into the box before laying back to Wass who was in space in support of the forward. The full back took a touch before drilling the ball across the 6 yard box, where Carlos Soler was on hand and quickest to react and poke home, just his fourth goal of the season, to give the hosts the lead.
6 minutes later the lead was doubled, Elche falling foul as they tried to play out from the back, Diakhaby winning back possession for the hosts and finding De La Cruz on the left. The ball was worked to the right via Musah, and when Elche initially cut out the attack Wass was on hand again to recover, this time interchanging passes with Musah and Jason before beating his marker Koné to get to the byeline and hang one in, where Maxi Gómez was quick enough to find a yard on Gonzalo Verdú to give himself the easiest of headers home from close range, to claim his 24th goal of the season.
It was almost a third in the opening half hour when Diakhaby saw his header crash back off the upright, getting up well to meet a José Gayà corner and direct his effort on target. There was a rare skirmish forward for the visitors with 7 minutes left to play of the opening period, Cifu playing a one-two on the right before picking out a cross, where Guido Carrillo found the space but couldn’t quite get enough on his header, which skimmed the bar and went over to the relief of Cillessen. The woodwork was then struck at the other end deep in stoppage time, a long free kick from Wass allowed to bounce in the area, and Maxi Gómez trying his luck from an acute angle only to be denied by the outside of the post.
On the hour mark, Toni Lato was sent on to replace José Gayà, and minutes later Valencia were handed a spot kick as they looked to further extend their advantage and apply more pressure on current champions Real Madrid, who were in action elsewhere. De La Cruz fired in a corner and Gabriel Paulista appeared to be bundled over in the area as he looked to connect. The referee gave himself a moment to reflect, before opting to go over to the pitch side monitor and then eventually award the penalty, which was duly dispatched by Maxi Gómez for his second of the game and 25th of the season.
Valencia then marked the return of Kevin Gameiro, replacing Jason with Guedes switching to the right, although his return was almost immediately marred by a consolation goal for the visitors, Carrillo again going close after this time being picked out by Marcone, the striker this time firing over the bar when he should perhaps have done better. The result was over as a contest after 78 minutes when Valencia grabbed their fourth, again coming as the result of a set play. A free kick from an extremely dangerous position was goal bound as De La Cruz looked to pick out the top corner, and when Édgar Badía could only parry, Gabriel Paulista was quickest to react for a simple poke home into an open goal to put the result to bed.
The result sees Valencia remain 4 points clear with just four games left to play, a trip to relegation threatened Eibar next in midweek before that massive encounter with Real Madrid next weekend whereby a win could see them secure the title if the gap remains the same in midweek. For their part, Madrid head to Celta Vigo in the week before that massive clash.
Week 34 in review
Friday night saw the latest round of fixtures begin with a game that had significance at both ends of the table. Getafe, currently in a precarious position and heavily involved in a battle to avoid relegation, hosted Athletic Bilbao, who themselves were looking for points to propel their push for European qualification. In the end, nothing could separate the pair, with a 1-1 draw the final outcome, the visitors taking the lead before Getafe struck back in the second half. The point was enough to see Bilbao leapfrog Real Sociedad into 6th spot on the evening, while Getafe remain one point outside the drop zone, albeit the same position they previously occupied courtesy of a superior goal difference.
Barcelona were in fine form in the early game on Saturday afternoon, as they swept aside visitors Real Betis 4-2 at the Camp Nou, a result which sees them secure qualification for the Champions League next season. An own goal from former Barcelona defender Marc Bartra after just 4 minutes gave the hosts the perfect start, and although Bartra made amends later in the game, a double from Ousmane Dembélé and the 15th league goal of the season from Antoine Griezmann ensured all 3 points for the home side, who as a result have now ensured their presence in the premier European competition for the 18th consecutive season.
Valladolid, currently 14th in the table, registered a 1-0 win against 11th placed Osasuna as they looked to ensure they are now all but safe from relegation, a solitary first half strike the difference between the two sides who were separated by just 5 points coming into the game. The same scoreline was in evidence as Granada put some space between themselves and the losing Osasuna, who sat just below them in the table, Celta Vigo the losers who are currently 6 points outside the relegation places with 4 games left to play.
The final game of the evening was again decided by a single goal, this time the away side benefiting as Alavés overcame Real Sociedad 1-0 at the Anoeta, a result which dents the Basque sides hopes for European qualification this year.
Unsurprisingly, all eyes on Sunday were on events at both the Mestalla and the Bernabéu with both the title favourites at home, but the day’s action got underway with an impressive 3-0 win for Sevilla, which all but condemns Eibar to relegation, the side still stuck at the foot of the table on just 20 points. Cadiz look set to be joining them in the Segunda next season, as they also fell by the same scoreline, at home against Levante, the result seeing the Valencian club pull 4 points away from the drop zone as a result, experienced striker Roger Martí grabbing 2 more goals for Levante as he moved into double figures for the season.
With Valencia in action half an hour before current champions Real Madrid, the league leaders already found themselves 2-0 up before Los Merengues kicked off, eventually winning 4-0 against Elche. On loan Valencia striker Manu Vallejo looked to have his own impact in the title race, as he gave current club Villarreal a shock 1-0 lead at the Bernabéu, but a double from Isco ensured Real Madrid remain just 4 points behind Valencia with 12 points left to play for, including the two sides set to meet in Madrid next weekend in what is shaping up to be a potential title decider. The final game of the weekend saw visitors Atlético Madrid deliver another blow to the survival hopes of Huesca, as they cruised to a 4-1 win to keep their own European aspirations alive, although with the Champions League final still to come they could yet be there on merit.
Five star Valencia set up title showdown
A five star performance from league leaders Valencia ensures they go into this weekends clash against Real Madrid still maintaining a four point advantage at the top of the table as the league season reaches it’s climax. The 5-0 hammering of the bottom club also all but condemns Eibar to spending next season in the Segunda, the Alicante club now finding themselves 9 points adrift of safety with just 3 games remaining. Valencia made just one change against the side who had taken just one point in their last 5 league outings, Kevin Gameiro making his first start since his return from injury, with Gonçalo Guedes reverting to the wing and Jason dropping to the bench for the encounter.
Hosts Eibar looked to dispel their league position just a few minutes in, when Takashi Inui slipped in Rafa Soares for the chance on goal, but the left back poked his effort wide. It was to prove costly when just minutes later Valencia took the lead from an unlikely source. A direct free kick on the right was superbly curled into the corner by skipper José Gayà, claiming his first goal of the season at the right time with a simply sublime set piece.
The advantage was almost doubled just 6 minutes later, full back Gayà again at the heart of things, this time with a wonderful inswinging corner which centre half Gabriel Paulista headed just over the bar, much to the relief of Dmitrovic. At the other end, Sergi Enrich was also guilty of missing a great chance when he too headed over the bar, the delivery from Inui, getting some joy down the left, initially picking him out.
Just shy of the hour mark it was a case of de ja vu as José Gayà was presented with another direct scoring opportunity from an almost identical position. This time the skipper opted for the opposite corner, and when Dmitrovic could only get a hand to it, Carlos Soler reacted quickest to poke into the empty net to score for the second successive game.
A few minutes later, Valencia had a shout for a penalty when full back Julian Korb needlessly clattered into José Gayà, who had broken free at the edge of the area after an exchange of passes with De La Cruz. A VAR review, however, showed the incident to have occurred just outside the penalty box, and the eventual free kick came to nothing.
Into the second half and Eibar had another chance to try and rescue something from proceedings, this time a massive goal kick from Dmitrovic and a rare error from Gabriel Paulista, the defender misjudging his header, saw Sergi Enrich once again find himself with time and space to get an effort on goal, but once again the former Numancia striker failed to make Cillessen work. An error at the other end then handed Valencia their third, Gabriel Paulista, keen to atone for his error, the benefactor when a bodged clearance by Oliveira from a De La Cruz corner fell to the defender, who poked home through a sea of bodies to follow up his goal from the weekend too, much as team mate Soler had earlier in the game.
Eibar then showed the kind of naivety that only goes to underline their position at the foot of the table, as they were once again undone by an almost replica set play. Nicolás De La Cruz was again the provider from the corner, and this time Gabriel Paulista was able to get a clean header away, powering his effort beyond Dmitrovic with the Eibar defence caught static, three in two and five for the season for the Brazilian defender.
The result was complete with 15 minutes remaining, with Gayà was again the provider. A throw in was returned to him by striker Maxi Gómez, and the 25 year old opted to swing one into the area, where Gonçalo Guedes stole a yard on the defenders to poke beyond Dmitrovic, who had rushed off his goal line in an attempt to cut out the danger.
With Real Madrid not in action until tomorrow evening, Valencia know they will remain top of the table, regardless of the outcoming at the Bernabéu on Sunday evening, the only blot in the copybook a booking for José Gayà, who also picked up a man of the match award for his fine performance, which means the skipper will now be out for the crucial clash due to an accumulation of bookings, a bitter blow for Los Che, who will probably now look to either Toni Lato or Thierry Correia to deputise at the weekend.
Week 35 in review
There was nothing to split the four sides who got round 35 underway on Tuesday evening. The Mendizorroza played host to a 1-1 stalemate between Alavés and Granada, a result which has little impact on the league table where both sides sit alongside each other at present in mid table safety. The same outcome occurred in the 10 PM game, this time Getafe grabbing an equaliser with 7 minutes to go for another vital point in their battle for survival, as they came from behind against Real Betis, for who the point sees them currently 5th in La Liga, with right wing back Emerson, on loan from Barcelona, grabbing his first goal of the season.
Sevilla kept up their faint hopes of grabbing a European spot as a last minute goal saw them take all three points in a thrilling 3-2 victory against Osasuna, Sevilla racing into a 2-0 lead in the first half before the hosts hit back after the break. With Eibar all but relegated following their crushing defeat by Valencia, Huesca did themselves a favour as they earned an impressive point in a 2-2 draw away to Athletic Bilbao. Bilbao were 2-0 up at San Mamés after just 9 minutes, which made the fightback from Huesca, who sit a point behind Getafe in 18th place, all the more impressive.
Honours were also even at the Wanda Metropolitano, where late strikes from both sides saw a 1-1 draw as Barcelona, already qualified for European competition next season, took the lead before Atlético Madrid, still looking to secure their own qualification, hit back just 2 minutes later. The hosts still have a game in hand on those around them due to their participation in this season’s Champions League, where they will face RB Leipzig in the final, and with a 4 point gap on the chasers they look favourites to secure the final spot, potentially as competition winners.
Behind Atlético, Real Sociedad aided their European ambitions with a 4-2 win in Valencia against Levante, who sit just 3 points outside the drop zone. The visitors took the lead 11 minutes in before Levante pulled in front themselves, only for 3 late goals to condemn them to their 18th defeat of the season.
Cadiz remain in trouble second bottom of the table after they were easily beaten 2-0 as they travelled to face Villarreal, who took the lead after just a minute before a second goal just 15 minutes later ended the game as a contest. Like Eibar below them, they find themselves adrift of those above looking to escape the drop, with just 9 points left to play for. Further up the table, Valladolid underlined their league position superiority against Elche with a 3-2 away win, a game in which they were twice pegged back by the hosts before eventually taking the win.
It was then all eyes on the Balaídos for the final game of the day, Real Madrid looking to maintain pressure on league leaders Valencia before that mouth watering head to head at the weekend. Skipper Sergio Ramos put them in a great spot early on, before hosts Celta Vigo then hit back just 3 minutes later through Fran Beltrán. Visitors Madrid then regained the lead, and the task was then made far easier late on when the hosts were reduced to 10 men, former Manchester City and Barcelona midfielder Denis Suárez receiving his marching orders, before a late Karim Benzema goal secured the 3-1 victory, just the 10th goal of the season for the veteran striker.
Title race blown wide open as Real hammer Valencia
Real Madrid blew the title race wide open as they hammered Valencia 3-0 in the big showdown at the weekend, to reduce the gap at the top to just one point with 2 games left to play. Valencia had travelled to the Bernabéu with some confidence, having previously beaten the current champions 4-2 in an impressive display just down the road in the Copa Del Rey final, but they had no match for a superlative display from Karim Benzema as Zinedine Zidane and his side ensured the title would go to the wire. Valencia were without José Gayà, suspended after his booking in the 5-0 win against Eibar, otherwise it was a clean bill of health. Hosts Madrid were without Modric and Hazard, while Ferland Mendy is also a long term absentee with a fractured leg. There was some doubt over Dani Carvajal too, due to a hamstring strain, but he was passed fit to play.
As expected from two sides with such attacking intent, the game got off to a flyer with Madrid going close in the opening minute. Despite Valencia getting the game underway, Varane won the ball back and the hosts played the ball around confidently before Benzema eventually looked right to find Eder Militão. A few passes later play was switched to the other wing where fit again Dani Carvajal advanced down the left. His cross was cut out by Diakhaby but Casemiro was on hand to feed the ball back into the area where Isco, looking slightly offside, made Cillessen work with a great close range effort, the former Barcelona keeper cutting the shot out for a corner. The resulting corner saw Valencia then look to break, Maxi Gómez driving forward on the counter, only to be clattered by Militão, who picked up a card for his troubles.
Still inside the opening 10 minutes, it was Isco again causing problems, this time a short free kick to Valverde being swung into the box for Isco, who this time opted to go low with his effort, Cillessen reacting quickly to get down low and hold. Valencia then went close themselves as both sides traded the early blows. A Carlos Soler free kick on the wide right was met by Maxi Gómez, who timed his leap to perfection to get above Casemiro, only to see his header hit the outside of the post and fall wide to safety.
3 minutes later Madrid went close with a header of their own. A throw in on the left by Carvajal was returned to him by Isco, and with Kroos in support the German midfielder delivered a superb cross field ball, finding Ángel Di María, who had ghosted in on the opposite wing, but the former PSG and Manchester United wide man couldn’t make Cillessen work with his header, which flew wide.
It was to prove a warning too far as minutes later the Bernabéu erupted as the defending champions took the lead. Di María was again involved, finding Isco again enjoying a little too much space down the left. This time the Spanish international opted to hold up play before finding veteran striker Karim Benzema, who unleashed an unstoppable curling effort beyond the scrambling Cillessen, a quite majestic strike worthy of such an occasion.
Just after the half hour mark the French striker went close again, an interchange of play between Valverde and Militão finding Di María, who in turn picked out his attacking colleague, this time the long range effort failing to trouble Cillessen as it flashed over the bar, to the relief of the visiting supporters. It was to be a temporary reprieve as minutes later the former Lyon forward had his second of the game. The 33 year old was found by Toni Kroos in the middle of the park, and opting to carry the ball forward and with nothing on, he decided to try his luck from range, producing another superb curling effort beyond Cillessen. It really was turning into the Karim Benzema show as he doubled his sides advantage.
Unsurprisingly, having come into the game knowing a win would have handed them the title, the visitors heads dropped, and just 2 minutes into the second half they conceded a 3rd from a set play. A Toni Kroos corner found Sergio Ramos unmarked to head home at the far post, ensuring the title battle would go to the wire and giving his side some revenge following their Copa Del Rey defeat earlier in the season at the hands of Los Che.
Valencia did go close to a consolation after a counter attack, Jason carrying the ball out from the back before releasing Gonçalo Guedes. The Portuguese front man did superbly well to beat Casemiro and find himself in space, but his eventually effort was met by an equally superb stop from Courtois to deny the goal. Valencia now need to pick up wins in their home games against Bilbao and Sevilla to ensure their first title in nearly two decades, while Real Madrid face easier opponents as they host Elche and travel to Valladolid on the final day as they look to retain the title they won last season.
Squeaky bum time, here's hoping that Los Ches prevail.
Going to the wire my friend… Benzema was unplayable!
Week 36 in review
With the season nearing conclusion, two sides were in action twice in the latest round of fixtures, as proceedings began on Friday evening as Atlético Madrid hosted Sevilla, the pair facing off to complete their game postponed from earlier in the season. A single strike from experienced front man Diego Costa 4 minutes before the break was to prove the difference, the hosts winning 1-0 and pulling themselves 7 points clear of challengers Real Sociedad in the battle for the final European spot, the rearranged fixture meaning both sides have now completed the same amount of games.
With all eyes naturally on the action on Sunday, there were still some key games and results, and plenty of goals, in the action on Saturday, which began early afternoon as Real Sociedad kept their European qualification hopes on track with a 3-0 thumping of Granada, taking a 2-0 lead into the break before a late goal ensured the points. Barcelona, who have already qualified for the Champion’s League, made harder work when they travelled to face Alavés, eventually coming away with a 2-1 win after finding themselves pegged back 10 minutes after going in front. Ousmane Dembélé scored the key goal, only his 8th in La Liga of the season.
There was also a win for Real Betis, another side hunting a European spot, as travelled to Valencia to brush aside Levante 3-1, a result which means the hosts are still heavily involved in a relegation battle. Despite pulling themselves level in the first half, they conceded just a minute later before the final goal coming in the second half to condemn them to their 19th league defeat of the season. The final game of the day saw Osasuna turn in a fantastic performance as they put a dent in the qualification hopes of Athletic Bilbao, a 3-0 win at El Sadar sealed with a goal from former West Ham front man Jonathan Calleri.
The lunch kick off on Sunday saw Villarreal take advantage from Bilbao slipping up the previous day as they secured a comfortable 2-0 win away at Celta Vigo, both goals coming in the opening 20 minutes courtesy of on-loan Valencia attacker Manu Vallejo, who has continued to impress during his time with the club. The result sees Villarreal now just 1 point behind Bilbao, with the pair at present looking the most likely to battle it out for the final Europa league spot.
Next in action were Cádiz, who surprised many with their 1-1 draw at home with Atlético Madrid, the result sadly, however, not enough to save them from relegation. It was a great result for the hosts, who took the lead through a late first half penalty, before Luis Suárez grabbed the equaliser just before the hour mark which proved enough to see them go down. Cádiz, who finished 2nd last season to earn promotion from the Segunda, have drawn 10 games this season, but it is their failure to turn those results into wins, with just 4 victories so far in the campaign, which ultimately sees them return back to the second tier at the first attempt.
The title clash at the Bernabéu certainly lived up to it’s billing as current champions Real Madrid underlined their credentials with a fantastic 3-0 victory against Valencia, the result closing the gap to just a point at the top of the table now meaning the title race is far from over. Most noticeable was the form of veteran French striker Karim Benzema, who scored 2 stunning goals in the encounter to hand his side the win and maintain his sides hopes of retaining the title.
Getafe remain just a point outside the drop zone as both they and Huesca picked up a valuable point. 17th placed Getafe enjoyed a goal fest as they drew 3-3 with Valladolid, the visitors reduced to 10 men on 55 minutes allowing 2 late goals to rescue a point for the hosts, who had been 3-1 down. Just below them in the table, Huesca picked up an extremely valuable point at Sevilla, equalising just 2 minutes after falling behind, and then even more impressively holding on after having to play the final 30 minutes with just 10 men following the dismissal of Sergio Gomez.
The final game of the weekend saw Eibar have their relegation confirmed, due to the points for both Huesca and Getafe, although they did put in one of their performances of the season with a 4-0 win away at Elche, with experienced striker Kike grabbing a hat-trick, taking his tally to 20 for the season for his relegated side, a fantastic return from the 31 year old former Middlesbrough front man.
Valencia back top as Bilbao see red
Valencia overcame their recent defeat against Real Madrid in fine style by returning to winning ways against an Athletic Bilbao side who needed points themselves as they looked to secure the final Europa League spot. Coming into this one, despite their collapse at the Bernabéu at the weekend, title hopefuls Valencia had won 4 of the last 5, while the visitors were in poor form with 2 draws and 3 defeats in their last 5 games. Valencia skipper José Gayà was available again following suspension, while Daniel Wass was the latest to miss out for disciplinary reasons. Gabriel Paulista was moved to right back with Mangala coming in alongside Diakhaby, while Zirkzee was also brought in up front to give the jaded Maxi Gómez a rest, although the Uruguayan striker was still available from the bench.
The home side, who knew nothing less than a win would do with Real Madrid having won earlier in the evening, underlined their intentions early on as they went close. Playing out from the back with some fine possession football, young midfielder Yunus Musah eventually picked out Jason in space on the right, the winger opting to carry the ball forward himself, driving infield with the defence backing off, before unleashing a shot which was dragged just wide of the post.
Just 6 minutes later the opener came. Valencia were gifted a direct free kick right on the edge of the area after Bilbao defender Iñigo Martínez manhandled Gameiro. Returning skipper José Gayà, who was sorely missed in the defeat at the weekend, stepped up to curl one beyond Unai Simón for just his second goal of the season, just one week after his first in a stand out performance against Eibar a week ago.
It proved to be the only action of note in a first half completely controlled by Valencia, who enjoyed 55% possession and ensuring their visitors failed to register a single shot on goal. The hosts were quickest out of the blocks again in the second half, taking just 4 minutes to double their advantage. The breakthrough came after a Gayà throw-in was only half cleared by Capa, with Carlos Soler picking up possession. The ball was cycled between him, Musah and Gameiro before the later, dropping slightly deeper to receive the ball a second time, turned to put Joshua Zirkzee clean through, the on-loan striker beating the offside trap perfectly before applying a calm finish beyond the onrushing Unai Simón.
The result was put beyond doubt just a minute later, when Bilbao were once again undone far too easily at the back. A deep free kick, from just inside the visitors half, was punted into the area by Carlos Soler, and with Unai Simón once again opting to rush out and close down the danger, centre half Mouctar Diakhaby found himself in space to volley the ball beyond the keeper.
Bilbao were then dealt a further blow just shy of the hour mark as they found themselves reduced to 10 men. A rare foray forward from the visitors was cut out by Diakhaby, who picked out substitute midfielder Uros Racic. Racic in turn released Joshua Zirkzee in a 2 on 2, and Unai Núñez, who was already on a booking, tripped the young striker leaving the referee with no option but to produce a second card and send the defender for an early bath. With an eye on the final game of the season, Valencia rang in the changes, and it was one of those substitutes, Emile Smith Rowe, who went close when a punch from the Bilbao shot stopper was picked up by the midfielder, on loan from Arsenal at the edge of the box. Smith Rowe opted to go round the outside of Dani Garcia, before eventually getting a shot away from a tight angle, which was well held by Unai Simón. Zirkzee also went close as he flashed a header over the bar following a great delivery from Jason, as Valencia closed out the win.
Valencia now go into their final game, against Sevilla at the weekend, knowing victory will secure them the title, while anything less will mean they will be reliant on current champions Real Madrid slipping up away at Valladolid. Bilbao, meanwhile, host Elche as they look to take the final Europa League spot, with both Villarreal and Sevilla, who travel to the Mestalla, also in the hunt.
Week 37 in review
With Real Madrid in action earlier on Tuesday evening as the penultimate round of fixtures got underway, a late goal saw them rise temporarily to the top of the table after it looked like they were initially going to drop points in their game against Elche. French striker Karim Benzema, who was so influential in their 3-0 victory against the league leaders at the weekend, opening the scoring with just 5 minutes gone from the spot. Elche pulled level, and looked set to do Valencia a massive favour, with just over 10 minutes to go, but in the 5th minute of stoppage time Mariano was on hand to score and take all 3 points for the reigning champions, who put themselves 2 clear at the top as a result.
Elsewhere in the early games, Sevilla beat Villarreal 1-0, both sides sitting just outside the European qualification spots, with defeat damaging the visitors hopes of grabbing the final spot, while Barcelona denied Levante the chance to secure safety with a comfortable 2-0 win at the Camp Nou. Just below them, Getafe also missed the opportunity to pull clear, as they hosted Atlético Madrid, going down 2-1 and sitting just 1 point ahead of Huesca, who were also in action later in the evening.
Aside from Valencia registering a comfortable 3-0 win at home to Athletic Bilbao, relegation threatened Huesca gave their survival hopes a boost with a massive 3 points in a 1-0 win against Osasuna, with striker Rafa Mir scoring the only goal with the visitors reduced to 10 men. Celta Vigo also remain in the relegation battle heading into the final weekend as they fell 2-0 against already relegated Cadiz in the other game at the foot of the table on Wednesday evening.
In the remaining three fixtures of the penultimate round, already relegated Eibar were condemned to their 26th defeat of the season, four more than any other side, as they were hammered 4-1 away against Granada, who remain comfortable in mid table. It was another mid table clash as Valladolid hosted Alavés, with the game ending all square as Toni Villa both scored and was then dismissed for Valladolid. The final game saw Alexander Isak, who has been a revelation in front of goal this season, help himself to a brace as Real Sociedad chalked up a comfortable 2-0 win against Real Betis, with both sides already having qualified for the Europa league and nothing left to play for but league points and pride.
Gattuso sacked by Napoli, could Barlow be target?
Napoli have sacked current manager Gennaro Gattuso after a poor season in which they finished 6th, although they have at least secured some European football for next season. Gattuso had initially reinvigorated his managerial career since switching to the Stadio Sao Paolo after 2 seasons at Milan, where he achieved so much as a player but struggled in the hot-seat, eventually missing out on the Champion’s League by a point, which led to his departure from the San Siro.
His first season with Gli Azzurri saw the club progress to the final of the Copa Italia, where they overcame Juventus on penalties to lift the trophy, his first success as a manager. They were unable to follow up that success this season, crashing out in the early rounds to Roma, while also failing in the Super cup and crashing out of the Europa league at the Quarter Final stage following a 1-0 aggregate defeat against RB Leipzig. In Serie A, 10 defeats were enough to condemn them to another Europa League spot, missing out on the Champion’s League by 5 points, former club Milan ironically taking the final spot. In a career which has previously seen the 43 year old manager in Switzerland and Greece as well as his country of birth, Gattuso will now once again be looking for another opportunity.
Napoli themselves will now begin a search to replace the former Italian international, who replaced Carlo Ancelotti back in December 2019. Ancelotti himself is considered a favourite for the role, alongside former Spanish manager Julen Lopetegui and former Valencia manager Marcelino. Current Valencia manager Sie Barlow could also interest the Italian giants, the rookie British manager currently sitting top of La Liga with just a game remaining, and known to be frustrated with the financial situation at his current club. The way he has taken a side from outside the favoured few and broken into the elite is exactly the kind of dynamic Napoli will be looking for as they look to overcome the stranglehold from sides such as Juventus, Inter and Milan in Serie A.
Madrid retain title as Rakitic breaks Valencian hearts
Real Madrid retained the La Liga title this afternoon despite only managing a draw away at Valladolid, as Valencia fell 3-2 at home against Sevilla. The result, only the 3rd defeat of the season for Los Che, and their first at home, means that last year’s champions Real Madrid once again lift the trophy, courtesy of their better head to head record, despite the sides finishing on both level points and level goal difference, Valencia having also scored 2 more. Gabriel Paulista returned to centre back, with Wass in at right back, while Guedes was chosen to partner the jaded Maxi Gómez up front, with Jason on the right wing and leading scorer Kevin Gameiro once again on the bench.
Valencia began the brighter of the two sides, Sevilla also looking for points themselves with a slim outside hope of taking the final Europa league spot. With 10 minutes gone, the hosts began to turn the screw, a Wass throw in on the right led to a one two with Musah before the full-back broke to the byeline and found Jason lurking on the edge of the box. The winger had time to pick out Guedes in the middle, but with nothing on the makeshift striker switched play to the other wing, where José Gayà was in space to carry the ball, beating Rakitic as he went. The skipper played a superb ball to pick out Yunus Musah at the edge of the box, and the young midfielder took a touch before firing into the bottom corner to give the hosts a valuable lead.
5 minutes later the hosts looked to double their advantage, this time after another throw-in from Wass was only half cleared. Diakhaby picked up the long clearance, sending the ball forward to goal scorer Musah, who this time opted to carry himself running at the defence before slipping the ball through to Guedes, on the edge of the area with his back to goal. The Portuguese international looked to lay one off for strike partner Maxi Gómez, who got his shot away but failed to really trouble Tomas Vaclik, who showed a safe pair of hands to hold onto the effort.
Minutes later it was the turn of Guedes again, this time Maxi Gómez holding the ball up, laying off for Musah who sent one over the top to Guedes in space on the right. He made the angle for himself inside the area but dragged his eventual shot across goal and wide. It proved to be costly as a few minutes later Sevilla found themselves all square with a quite sublime goal. It came from a Valencia attack, De La Cruz beating Rakitic before cutting back for Carlos Soler. The midfield man saw his cross cut out by Jules Koundé, who sent a long ball forward to find Youssef En-Nesyri racing through the middle. The Moroccan split through the Valencia back line, drifting beyond Gabriel Paulista, before following up with a quite audacious chip over Cillessen, who could only watch on as the ball sailed in.
With the Madrid game still all square, just after the half hour mark Valencia edged themselves back into the lead. From their own half, Gayà picked out Carlos Soler from the throw in, the midfielder sending the ball round the corner for De La Cruz in space on the left. The winger sent one forward, where Guedes got the better of Koundé, allowing Maxi Gómez to break free with the ball. The Uruguayan striker created the time and space before producing the finish, firing one low and hard beyond Vaclik into the bottom right hand corner.
Far from allowing their heads to drop, Sevilla hit back again immediately from the kick off. Playing the ball in midfield and drawing the hosts on to them, Fernando then sprung a ball over the top where Luuk De Jong found himself inexplicably clean through between the Valencia centre half pairing, the former PSV man showing great composure to take a touch and then slot beyond Jasper Cillessen, who was rushing out in an attempt to try and close down the danger.
Valencia hoped to take the advantage back into the break, although with the Madrid game still goalless a point would have been enough. De La Cruz again found some space on the left, although this time the winger cut across the back four to create some space himself, flashing a shot just wide in the process, as it remained level at the break.
The visitors took a shock lead 56 minutes in when they were gifted a penalty. Former Valencia man Rakitic was again pulling the strings in midfield, with En-Nesyri again getting into space and testing the Valencia defence, this time Cillessen proving equal to the challenge as he got down well to tip the ball wide for a Sevilla corner. As the ball was swung in it appeared to hit the arm of Diakhaby before being cleared, and after a VAR check the referee was in agreement, handing the away side a penalty and the chance to put the Valencia title dream under real pressure. Ivan Rakitic showed absolutely no sentiment to his former club as he stepped up and sent Cillessen, who was also a former Barcelona team-mate of his, the wrong way to put the visitors in front.
It proved to be the last chance of note, Valencia making changes and throwing everything forward in an attempt to get back on level terms, but with Sevilla showing some find resolute defensive work to limit the opportunities. As the final whistle blew, and news came in that Madrid had drawn, there was some initial confusion before it was confirmed the Spanish giants had retained their title, with both points and goal difference being equal, the head to head record and the thumping they handed out to Valencia recently proving decisive. It was heartbreak for the home side, who had led for so much of the season despite having an extremely limited budget and threadbare squad, although hopefully wants the dust settles it will be looked back upon as the great achievement it was, rather than with any hint of failure.
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