|Valencia (2)||Real Betis (1)|
|Kevin Gameiro 60′|
Dani Parejo 89′
|Lorenzo Jesús Morón García 90+3′|
Maybe, just maybe, Valencia might not be heading for a painful and very forgettable end-of-season run after all.
Perhaps the home team’s decision to switch to counter-attacking mode in the 2nd half instead of sitting back in the first 45 will be regarded as a watershed moment that turned our season around.
Both of Valencia’s goals in the 2nd period — Kevin Gameiro’s brilliant curling shot in the 60th minute and skipper Dani Parejo’s measured finish in the 89th — snapped a 6-match winless streak, which included 4 losses.
The poor form was down to a leaky defence and tired legs, which meant one priority for Albert Celades: plugging the gap. Playing a compact 4-4-2, the Bats played it safe initially, keeping possession by playing passes back and sideways.
But this is the Mestalla, one of only 3 home grounds in the league yet to register a loss this season. The fans wanted more and they demanded a response from a team that had been described as being lethargic and listless.
We got our answer from youngsters Ferran Torres, who is becoming a key driving force in the team, and Carlos Soler. Playing with verve, pace and creative freedom down the flanks, they were our main attacking threats all night.
But it was again clear as day that the defence needs a major shakeout. Conceding a weak goal in the 93rd minute was again due to a lapse in concentration and poor positioning. This means that Valencia have conceded 15 times in their last 6 games in all competitions despite having kept 4 straight clean sheets prior to that.
The only bright spark in an otherwise dodgy defence was Gabriel Paulista, who once again proved why he is an invaluable asset to Celades’s side.
Intelligent defending, hard tackling and a grit like no other, the 29-year-old Brazilian kept the likes of Nabil Fekir and Sergio Canales at bay.
Our crucial win here means that we sit just 2 points off Atletico Madrid and Real Sociedad, who are 3rd and 4th respectively. Two consecutive wins against upcoming opponents Alaves and Levante, coupled with inevitable slip-ups from our rivals should put us on track to achieving our top-4 aim.
Maybe, just maybe, we might.