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.Share this: