Valencia Football: Frustration mounts at the Mestalla

The expectancy and anticipation Valencia fans had at the beginning of the season has quickly diminished and been replaced with mounting frustration as their team continues to underperform on a regular basis.

After a convincing result but unconvincing effort against local rivals Levante at the end of October, Los Che returned to the Champions League and a crucial clash with the Belgian side Ghent.

The 20,000 Ghelamco Arena was sold out well in advance of the game and the capacity crowd created an electric atmosphere as the teams entered the field of play.

The home crowd’s enthusiasm rubbed off on “The Buffalos” and they dominated the game throughout. The solitary goal came shortly into the second half when Sven Kums converted a penalty after Barragan had handled the ball.

The visitors offered very little in return, barely creating a chance, and the plucky Belgium side saw the game out relatively untroubled to jump back into contention for qualification from the group stages of the world’s most prestigious club tournament.

The following weekend Valencia travelled to Galicia and a match up with high-flying Celta Vigo. No football connoisseur could have predicted what happened next as Valencia ran out 5-1 winners at the Estadio de Balaídos and showed the watching world exactly what they are capable of.

A brace apiece from Paco Alcácer, and the much maligned skipper Dani Parejo, and another goal for defender Shkodran Mustafi put smiles back on the Valencia faithful as they headed back from the North of Spain wondering if they could repeat this effort against lowly Las Palmas at the Mestalla the following weekend.

Quite simply, the answer was no. A bright start saw Valencia take the lead early on through Paco Alcácer but after that it was all downhill for the home side.

Las Palmas poked and probed and finally got the reward their fine play deserved when former Valencia player Jonathan Viera finished off a slick move for his current team with a little more than half an hour to go.

As the game reached its climax it looked increasingly likely that the Islanders would take all three points and it was only a string of fantastic saves from Jaume that gave Los Che a share of the spoils.

At the end of the game a chorus of disapproving voices rang out from all sides of the ground and clusters of supporters once again were demanding the sacking of the manager Nuno Espírito Santo.

The Portuguese coach has increasingly come under fire for his regular tinkering with the team that now normally sees numerous changes to the starting line up, game after game. Striker Alvaro Negredo, a fan favourite, publicly criticised the coach’s tactics and since that time has been frozen out of first team action. Nuno claimed it was only for football reasons that the Spanish international had not been picked to play, but more recently, the “Beast of Vallecas” has been struck down by acute appendicitis that required surgery rendering him unavailable for selection anyway.

Another favourite of the ‘Curva Nord’, Rodrigo De Paul, has also not been able to get a look in with Nuno instead favouring Santi Mima to partner Alcácer upfront in the games that Valencia have played two forwards.

On top of that Nuno has also been blighted with long-term injuries to key players like Barragan, Piatti and Rodrigo Moreno. After the Las Palmas match he received further bad news that his talisman defender Mustafi is unlikely to see any further action this calendar year.

The divide between Nuno and the fans seems to be getting deeper and deeper and it will take all his management skill and ability to claw the supporters back on side.

The team he picked for the next game, the long trek to Russia and a confrontation with group leaders Zenit St Petersburg, was once again contentious.

Rafa Mir, a product of the Valencia Academy that has produced current first teamers Paco Alcácer and Jose Luis Gaya made his full debut.

The teenager stepped in for Santi Mima who was dropped to the bench. Alongside Mima in the dugout was Rodrigo De Paul, fuelling speculation that any issue between him and the manager were now resolved.

A youthful looking Valencia side started well but, without Mustafi shepherding proceedings at the back for the Spaniards, the defence looked fragile and Shatov had soon sprung the offside trap to put the hosts ahead inside 15 minutes.

Valencia had several good chances but failed to make them count, and their wastefulness in front of goal was punished when Dzubya played a neat one-two with Hulk and then finished with aplomb to collect his fifth goal of the group stage. The visitors evening was compounded with the dismissal of Ruben Vezo ten minutes from time, putting him out of the final match against Olympique Lyon.

The news all associated with the club were dreading came later that evening, Ghent had scored a winner in the fifth minute of injury time against the French outfit, and as a result, qualification for the knock out stages now lay outside Valencia’s own control.

The trip back from Russia would have been a gloomy one for the players and fans and the thought of playing in another hostile environment the following Sunday would have done little to ignite enthusiasm.

A match up with Sevilla is always a brutal affair. It is fair to say both teams do not like each other. With the pantomime villain Unai Emery in charge at Los Rojiblancos, things often get feisty.

With Valencia having had five players sent off in the last five seasons at this cauldron of a stadium it was important to keep a calm head from the start. Unfortunately, this did not happen and Los Che had three of their back four in the referee’s notebook by the 20th minute. The inevitable happened in the 35th minute when Jaoa Cancelo was given a second yellow for a arm in the face of Vitolo.

On the back foot from that point, Valencia put in a truly insipid performance and failed to achieve a corner, let alone a shot on goal. The home side’s domination was rewarded early in the second half when left back Escudero volleyed home from a tight angle after a sublime pass with the outside of his foot by the former Valencia star Éver Banega.

Just before the end, Javi Fuego also got his marching orders to leave Valencia struggling to put out an established back four for their next home game against Barcelona.

A discussion the same day of the game between the owner Peter Lim and Nuno led to the resignation of the Portuguese coach after the match. The search now begins for another new manager, who will be Valencia’s sixth since Unai Emery left in June 2012.

The other La Liga team in the city, Levante, are also not doing well at the moment. A home draw with Deportivo La Coruna and a1-0 defeat also at the Ciutat de Valencia stadium against Real Betis were sandwiched between a fantastic 3-0 victory in Gijon.

Despite that remarkable result, other teams at the foot of the table have also been picking up points to ensure Levante continue to remain in a dogfight at the foot of the table as 2015 nears to a close.


John Howden

Anyone wishing to watch football in Valencia can obtain tickets from the box offices of both clubs. Further information can be found on the following websites.

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