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 re-arranged 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 re-arranged 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.Share this: