|Valencia (1)||Atletico (1)|
|Daniel Parejo 82’||Diego Costa 36’|
There is a slight swagger about Valencia these days. Early glimpses of confidence were shown last week when Daniel Parejo’s Paneka penalty beat Deportivo Alavés.
At Saturday’s early kick off, the self-belief remained even when Los Che trailed 0-1 away to a high pressing Atletico. With Captain Marvel relentlessly chasing down opponents and orchestrating the team’s attack, nothing seemed impossible.
So when he stepped up to an 82nd minute free kick just outside of Atletico’s penalty box, one could not fault the Valencia faithful from expecting anything but the spectacular.
And Parejo didn’t disappoint. Because that is what true captains do — step up when it matters the most.
No swerve, banana curl or fancy pre-rehearsed routine involving a few players. Just an absolute screamer of a shot into the top right corner from 25 yards to make it 1-1.
It was the first goal conceded by Atleti in 650 minutes.
Valencia’s confidence from a four-game unbeaten LaLiga run, including two back-to-back wins, was obvious from the kick-off.
Denis Cheryshev’s dangerous delivery into the Atletico box in the 18th minute was the first of many crosses to trouble the hosts. But there was a lack of sting in the final third.
It was the same for Atletico. Sturdy defending from the Valencia back four provided little space for the abysmal strike partnership of Diego Costa and Álvaro Morata.
Atletico had managed only seven goals in the last eight games, and the spectre of Antoine Griezmann’s ghost continues to haunt Diego Simeone’s side.
This would have continued if not for a penalty in the 37th minute after a VAR check confirmed that Cheryshev had handled the ball.
Costa’s indifferent celebrations after converting was a glaring reminder that it was his first goal for Atleti at the Metropolitano since November 2018.
Valencia would increase its punch in the second half. The overlapping link up play between Geoffrey Kondogbia, Cheryshev and Parejo started to show more promise with each attack.
The relentless pressing finally allowed Cheryshev to smash an effort off the crossbar 10 minutes into the restart. The Russian should have scored.
When Parejo finally smashed a stunner eight minutes from time, the match turned dramatically in Valencia’s favour.
Three minutes after the goal, Atletico’s midfield wizard Joao Felix limped off after a stumble.
Having used up all his substitutes, Simeone was now down to 10 men.
The visitors’ advantage showed as Parejo almost scored the winner in the 86th min, his low drive saved by Jan Oblak.
But Valencia’s momentum was cut short in the 92nd minute when Lee Kang In was sent off for a studs-up challenge on Santiago Arias. An unnecessary blemish on a day when the Bats had much to cheer.
As Parejo said: “This point is a good one, because this is a tough ground. But looking at how the game ended we could have taken the three points.”
Long may the swagger continue.