|Valencia (1)||Sevilla (1)|
|Rubén Sobrino 81′||Lucas Ocampos 45+3′|
The stage had been set for an intriguing battle. Student versus master. Mentee against mentor. But in the end, neither could claim an advantage. Albert Celades fought his mentor Julen Lopetegui to a 1-1 draw as Valencia drew against Sevilla at home.
It was the duo’s first time as opposing coaches, having previously worked together in the Spanish national youth teams and in an ill-fated spell at Real Madrid last season.
Before the match, Celades was generous about Lopetegui, calling him “the best coach in LaLiga”. But once the match started, his players were a lot more stingy on the field, looking to extend Los Che’s five-league-matches unbeaten run against Sevilla.
With several attacking players unavailable, Celades was forced to reshuffle his team. Lee Kang In and Maxi Gomez led the line in place of Rodrigo Moreno and Kevin Gameiro, who were out through suspension and injury respectively.
And it seemed to have worked as the Korean starlet, who made his debut a year ago, was the team’s brightest spark in the first half. With quick feet and trickery that bamboozled four Sevilla players at one point, Lee was a constant threat.
To the fans’ dismay, he fluffed his lines early on when Ferran Torres lobbed a cross towards him, volleying just over the crossbar. The miss would haunt Valencia.
Three minutes into stoppage time before the interval, Sevilla pounced. Lucas Ocampos, who had been the driving force for the away side, connected with Fernando’s smart cross and drilled a low finish past Jasper Cillessen. It was a painful punch for Valencia, who had dominated the first half.
Boos rang out at the half-time whistle, upset with the referee for a questionable free kick to Sevilla which led to their goal.
The Bats continued to dominate in the second half, but without much incision at the final third. Celades turned to back up forwards Rubén Sobrino and Manu Vallejo for a break, and was duly rewarded.
Valencia won a free kick in the 80th minute via Daniel Parejo. The mercurial captain swung in a trademark dangerous ball and Sobrino rose highest to nod home his first goal at the Mestalla.
The stadium came to life and roared the team on, leading to a frantic finale that saw Valencia pin Sevilla back in their half. But it was not meant to be.
Sobrino, who has been limited to only three cameos this season, said: “It doesn’t matter how long I’m on the pitch for, I have to be as prepared as possible to be useful and to help the team.”
With Denis Cheryshev and Rodrigo back from suspension, Sobrino will most likely remain on the bench for this weekend’s visit to Espanyol.
But Celades would be comforted knowing that he has a confident substitute poacher. Three points against the second-from-bottom Espanyol would be critical if the pupil wants to overtake his master one day.