When Yarek Gasiorowski came on as an injury time substitute in Mallorca early in October he became the 113th player to come through the Valencia Academy and debut in an official match with Los Che. Recent successes that have graced the Junior ranks have been the likes Ferran Torres, Kang In Lee, Carlos Soler and Fran Villalba. This season, more than ever, the club have relied on their youth products to swell the Senior ranks and step up a level.
The Valencia coach, Rueben Baraja had a spell in charge of the “B” team in 2013 and truly believes in these youngsters. They continue to form the nucleus of the side playing La Liga games and have been compared to the Manchester United class of 92, and to the West Ham United academy that had the likes of Carrick, Cole, Lampard and Ferdinand.
In the game at the Estadio Mallorca Son Moix, Valencia had three starters that had come through the ranks of Valencia Mestalla. Javier Guerra, Cristhian Mosquera, and Diego Lopez. Three more Hugo Guillamon, Fran Perez and Yarek himself also entered the field of play before the final whistle. Goalkeepers Jaime Domenech and Cristian Rivero, who were on the bench, had time with the second string, as did Pablo Gonzalbez, Cesar Tarrega, Hugo Gonzalez and Ruben Iranzo. Over half the squad that travelled to the Balearic Islands had youth connections with the club.
It was one of them, Diego Lopez that scored the goal in the 1-1 draw. The acceptable performance in Mallorca was surpassed by a three-point victory over Cadiz in the next game.
The team from Andalusia had the former Valencia stars Maxi Gomez, Ruben Sobrino and Alvaro Negredo named in their squad, although only Gomez started. Former Valencia Mestalla and Levante star Roger Marti was also a used substitute for the team in yellow, but they were easily sunk with two first half goals by José Luis Gayà (another Valencia Mestalla product) and Hugo Duro.
A trip to the “cathedral” in Bilbao and the atmospheric San Mamés came next for Valencia. A superb competent performance was ruined by a late, late equaliser for the Basques. Down at the break to an Oscar de Marcos goal, Los Che came back strong in the middle of the second half with goals from Fran Perez and the in-form Hugo Duro. An equalizer in the 7th minute of injury time denied Valencia the three points they arguably deserved.
Prior to the next home game with Granada, Valencia had to overcome a tricky hurdle in the Copa Del Rey, and a match up with UD Logroñés.
Some of the matches in this first round had proved mismatches… with Getafe and Real Betis both bagging 12 goals and Alavés ten goals against their lower opposition. It was never going to be that easy for Valencia but a comfortable 2-0 victory, with goals from Pablo Gonzalbez and Diego Lopez, put Valencia’s name in the draw for the next round.
Coming through the Copa Del Rey fixture unscathed, Valencia continued to use Mosquera in the back four as cover for the injured Cenk and Diakhaby for the game against Granada. A scrappy first half with very little telling events seemed to be meandering to a half time stalemate. With no shots on target from either team, the last piece of action in the first period of play gave Valencia the lead.
A harsh penalty was awarded when Hugo Duro went down under an innocuous challenge from the Granada defender Raul Torrente. A VAR review concurred with the referee’s judgement of a penalty, and Jose Luis Garcia Vaya (known as ‘Pepelu’ to Valencia fans) hit the spot kick sweetly into the corner, giving the goalkeeper no chance.
The second half was as uneventful as the first, but importantly Valencia clung on to a precious three points. One thing that Baraja and Valencia must be careful of is the potential burn out of the youngsters and possible injuries. Alberto Mari, arguably the best of the “Mestalla” bunch has been out of action for three months after an operation to repair his right quadriceps, and it would be criminal to bring him back too early. Each of these youngsters must be allowed to come through at their own pace, and the forthcoming matches and the International break will need the back room staff to make the right choices with regard to playing time for this group.
In November, Valencia have to meet the teams lying first and second in the division in their next few games, and any points from those matches will give the Valencia fans the feeling that the “Mestalla crew” are the “real deal” and ready to continue thriving. A struggle in those matches may suggest a need to delve into the transfer market in January, for a couple of experienced players to be added to the fold and help the youngsters thrive at their own pace. The Bernabéu and Real Madrid comes up first and then, later in the month, the surprise package of ‘top team’ Girona are opponents in Cataluyna. In between the two away games and the international break is a home encounter with Celta Vigo.
Levante UD continue to toil successfully in their division. Recent wins over Albacete, Racing Ferrol and Varea in the Copa Del Rey have been big plusses, but a poor defeat in Andorra was a big blemish on recent performances. Los Granotas also dropped points in the draws against Villarreal B, Tenerife and CD Mirandés. The latter was particularly difficult to stomach as Mirandés equalised in the fourth minute of injury time and Levante UD had two players sent off during the game. Los Granotas next few games are against teams that have played in La Liga in the last few seasons and they will be pivotal matches if the team want to be in a good place in the league at the beginning of the New Year.
Report by John Howden
Article copyright ’24/7 Valencia’
Real Madrid v Valencia CF 11 November 21.00h
Valencia CF v Celta Vigo 25 November 16.15h
Girona FC v Valencia CF 3 December weekend (tbc)
CD Leganés v Levante UD 10 November 20.30h
Levante UD v Racing Santander 20 November 21.00h
Eibar v Levante UD 25 November 21.00h
Levante UD v Valladolid 3 December weekend (tbc)