|Valencia (1)||Elche (0)|
|Daniel Wass 22′|
For Daniel Wass, age is just a number. While he may be turning 32 this year and is the second oldest player in the Valencia squad after Kevin Gameiro, this Danish Duracell Bunny is showing no signs of slowing down.
It was his tenacity, his tackles, and most importantly his goal, that led Los Che to a much-needed win over Elche. In a tightly contested match that required a calm old head among our excitable youths, Wass provided just that.
We were looking to shake off our Copa Del Rey exit by getting back to winning ways in the league. Struggling Elche – a team that has not won a LaLiga match since October last year – seemed to be the ideal opponents to bounce back against.
But there could not be any complacency. The last team that Elche had beaten in the league was none other than Javi Gracia’s men. Los Che were looking for both redemption and revenge. And with just two points separating us from the drop zone, this was a match we could ill afford to lose.
Recognising the significance of this match, Gracia opted for experience over exuberance, as the older Wass replaced starlet Yunus Musah on the right flank. It was a decision that would reap dividends.
There was purpose and intent from the start. In the 10th minute, Wass missed a glorious opportunity to put the home team ahead. The ball had fallen to him in the penalty area after Elche’s goalkeeper Edgar Badia misjudged a pass. Unfortunately, he would be denied by some desperate defending from the visitors.
No matter because it would be Wass’s night. He atoned for his miss just 12 minutes later with a well-taken header courtesy of Goncalo Guedes. The Portuguese winger – who oscillates between the frustrating and the sublime – dropped a shoulder, stepped past Elche’s right-back Josan and floated an inch-perfect ball that found the Dane. The whole team ran over, hugging Wass, for the boys knew how critical the goal was to the game and the season.
He would be involved in Valencia’s second golden opportunity too, with his pass finding Manu Vallejo who was barged over in the box. Penalty. But spot-kick king Carlos Soler saw his attempt saved by Badia, denying the home side a comfortable two-goal cushion and keeping us on edge for the entire game.
Despite the blip, Valencia never looked back. Led by the valiant veteran Wass, we were a team possessed. The tireless Dane conquered the right-flank with his dynamism, and his teammates took the lead from him. Manu Vallejo ran so hard harrying the visitors that he probably continued running home after the match. Young Thierry Correira dovetailed perfectly with his mentor Wass, overloading the right flank and causing mayhem. Uros Racic was, well, Uros Racic. The blonde tattooed Hulk threw himself into every Elche pass and shot he could reach.
The result bumps Valencia up to 13th in the table, and there can now be hope that this will be a harbinger of better things to come. “They are 3 massive points for us. We knew we had to win this game,” said Wass. “Mentally, it’s a big step forward – it takes us nicely into the next game.”
A massive win, a massive performance.
Athletic Bilbao; let’s go again.