El Centrocampista

Work to do for Pellegrino as Valencia inconsistencies remain ahead of Barcelona trip

Photo: EFE

Roberto Soldado was played through, took a touch, adjusted his body and released the ball towards the bottom right corner of the goal in an attempt to complete his hat trick. The finesse was there, the placement was not however. After the ball went out of play Soldado looked up and smiled through gritted teeth; despite missing a fantastic chance to cap a first half treble the captain was happy; it was one of the most dominant 45 minutes of football displayed by Valencia at the Mestalla in a long time.

Valencia’s play against Deportivo La Coruna last Sunday was fluid, dynamic, aggressive and intelligent. There was a freedom rarely seen under Emery and partnerships were popping up all over the pitch, most potently between Jonas and Soldado; continuing their fantastic understanding created from the previous season.

The Brazilian assisted both of his colleague’s first half goals, the first a perfectly timed left footed scoop that allowed an onside Soldado time to approach Daniel Aranzubia before taking a touch past him and playing the ball into the net. The second assist came via a first time volley at 90 degrees to the lobbed pass received from Tino Costa, who was seemingly settling well into his new role, Soldado bettered Jonas’ assist with a volleyed scissor kick high into the net.

Then came a short but huge kick in the teeth for Valencia as €3.5 million summer signing Fernando Gago left the pitch clutching his adductor, to be replaced by the slowly improving Dani Parejo in the 38th minute. Gago and his Argentine counterpart Tino Costa were forming a doble pivot for Valencia’s flowing attacks whilst breaking up oppositions attempts. There was a justified concern control of the game may be lost with Gago’s departure and confirmation didn’t take long to arrive as Abel Aguilar bundled in the following corner.

However, euphoria soon returned at the Mestalla when last season’s most improved performer, Sofiane Feghouli, latched onto a through ball from Parejo on the inside right channel where he fired a confident shot across Aranzubia and into the far corner to put Valencia back in front by two, which could have been more impressive given the Rafael Benitez-esque disciplined and intelligent performance.

Despite losing the first half 3-1, Deportivo won the second 0-2, matching Valencia’s first half aggressiveness Depor began pressing and winning 50/50’s, free kicks, corners- where they scored their second, and a penalty, where they scored the equalizer to snatch a point from what previously looked like a potential thrashing.

After the first half brought back happy memories of times under Rafael Benitez, the second brought flashbacks of last season with Unai Emery where dropping points from winning positions became a frequent occurrence. The players once again switched off, and were punished for doing so, panic set in and goals from Aguilar and Pizzi followed along with a Ricardo Costa red card.

Disappointment greeted the final whistle at the Mestalla as the start of a new era hit a stumbling block; in a week where a deserved point at the Bernabeu was followed by the conclusion of a successful transfer window with the purchase of Aly Cissokho from Lyon for €6 million, it felt like more of the same for supporters.

New coach Mauricio Pellegrino struggled to pinpoint the cause for what he described ‘a loss of concentration’ but admitted it’s something he’ll be working very hard on, and with a trip to the Camp Nou to face Barcelona coming up on Sunday, the Argentine will have to draw on every bit of physiological and tactical knowledge picked up from the likes of Rafael Benitez and Marcelo Bielsa to deal with the issue.

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