Valencia rue late penalty miss
Valencia missed the chance to cement their lead at the top of La Liga on Sunday evening as a late penalty miss saw them held to a 1-1 draw away at Osasuna despite being the better team on the occassion. With Barcelona not in action, Valencia, who currently sit top, came into this game hoping to continue their impressive form against a team who have been equally impressive this season, finding themselves in 4th. Denis Cheryshev was passed fit to start for the visitors, while the only change saw young signing Janni Serra come onto the bench in the place of the injured Daniel Sturridge.
Osasuna came into the game off the back of a 5-2 win at home against Celta Vigo last time out, while Valencia also found the target twice in their 2-1 victory over Granada, but the first 10 minutes of the encounter saw neither team able to create anything of note, the first chance coming for the visitors eventually, 11 minutes in. A deep looping free kick from Daniel Wass was knocked down by Uros Racic just inside the box, but when centre-half Mouctar Diakhaby swivelled to try and get a shot away, the shot was blocked then cleared by Osasuna skipper Oier.
The visitors eventually made a breakthrough just after the half hour mark, although some questions will be raised as to the hand home keeper Rubén played in the goal. A thrown-in on the left was picked up by Maxi Gómez, who in turn laid the ball infield for Racic in space. The midfielder looked for space, finding Gonçalo Guedes on the wing, the Portuguese winger taking just a touch before firing a shot in on goal from an acute angle. Despite being well positioned, keeper Rubén could only parry the effort against the inside of the post, giving Valencia a deserved lead.
Unsurprisingly, after the break the hosts came out looking for an immediate response, and way back into the game, enjoying a large spell of possession in the opening minutes of the second period, the visitors defence, well marshalled by skipper José Gayà, holding firm against several waves of attack before eventually clearing the danger. Valencia then sent on Mangala at the back in place of Gabriel Paulista before almost grabbing a second in the 68th minute. Another Wass set piece causing problems, this time a corner, only being half-cleared to Cheryshev, who laid off for Carlos Soler in space, the midfielder seeing his long range effort well tipped over by Rubén before the keeper then claimed the second corner.
At the other end, Jasper Cillessen was then called upon when a counter attack from a Valencia corner eventually found Chimy Ávila in space, the forward going on a mazy run before testing Cillessen with his effort, the former Barcelona keeper equal to the challenge. 3 minutes later, the hosts found themselves level from a similarly positioned throw in as Valencia had utlised to such great effect in the first half. The set play found Jonathan Calleri, who knocked the ball on for Jony. The Lazio loanee was quick to move the ball on to Chimy Ávila, the Argentine forward this time having the time and space in the middle to fire in the corner, Cillessen having no chance.
Valencia continued to press as they looked to reclaim the lead, enjoying better chances than their hosts, throwing on Smith Rowe, Correia and Zirkzee as they looked to inject fresh pace into their attack. The move almost paid off when in the 86th minute Joshua Zirkzee was pushed inside the area when trying to get on the end of another Wass free-kick. A quick VAR check confirmed the penalty, and with usual taker Kevin Gameiro having recently made way for Zirkzee, fellow striker Maxi Gómez was given the responsibility. The Uruguayan striker sent the keeper the wrong way but could only watch on in horror as his effort clipped the outside of the post before going wide, spurning a great opportunity to secure a vital 3 points for his side.
The visitors still had time to forge another couple of opportunities, first off goalscorer Guedes doing well to cut inside before firing across goal, his attempt this time well held by home keeper Rubén. Moments later Racic found substitute Correia out wide, who in turn cut the ball back for fellow substitute Zirkzee. The forward, on loan from Bayern Munich, directed an effort goalwards but his shot was well blocked by the hosts, who held on to secure a point that sees them stay 4th in the table, with Valencia still top but disappointed not to be leaving with a victory from El Sadar.
Valencia confirmed after the game that both José Gayà and Portuguese winger Gonçalo Guedes had picked up slight knocks, both set to be out for up to a week, although hopefully fit for the clash against Getafe next weekend.