|Real Betis (2)||Valencia (1)|
Sergio Canales 90′
|Maxi Gomez 32′|
The Estadio Beninto Villamarín in Seville holds happy memories for Valencia – it is where they became Copa Del Rey champions after beating Barcelona six months ago.
But not this time. The international break seemed to have halted any momentum garnered over the past weeks as they fell to league strugglers Real Betis.
The loss would have hurt – it not only denied Valencia a third consecutive LaLiga win, but also condemned them to their first defeat in seven meetings with their Andalusian opponents.
Both teams came into the game with agendas to achieve. Valencia were chasing a win which would have propelled them to the European spots in the table, while 17th-placed Betis were trying to avoid dropping deeper into relegation trouble.
Ironically, Los Che would be undone by two of their former players – Joaquín and Sergio Canales.
But it was the visitors who scored first, after Betis were caught unaware from a quickly taken Valencia free kick. The ball fell to Ferran Torres, who embarked on a mazy run before setting up Maxi Gomez to power home from close range in the 32nd minute for his sixth goal of the season, putting him alongside Daniel Parejo as the club’s top scorer.
But there would be an instant response from the home side just five minutes later. Betis left wingback Alex Moreno skipped too easily past a sliding Jaume Costa before drilling in a low cross, which was lashed into the net by former Valencia star Joaquín.
Real Betis carried this momentum into the second half, with Jasper Cillessen forced into vital saves. The thoughts of the vital mid-week Champion League clash against Chelsea may have been weighing on some of the players’ minds as their intensity dropped.
After the crossbar had denied both Betis star man Nabil Fekir and Lee Kang In, both sides seemed to be settling for a draw – before Valencia alumnus Sergio Canales stunned his former team by whipping in a free kick in what was virtually the last kick of the game.
“It leaves a bad taste in our mouth, because we had a good dynamic going and we were doing very well. I think our mistakes gave them a lifeline. We’re hurt but tomorrow we have to be focused on the next game,” said right-back Costa.
He is right. Valencia must quickly forget this minor blip – because there’s only the small matter of Chelsea in just four days.