|Valencia (2)||Villarreal (0)|
|Hugo Guillamon 43′|
Carlos Soler 77′ (P)
A 7-game winless streak. Derby day rolls around. What could go wrong? For Valencia, nothing. Fans arrived in full force, Mestalla was rocking and no one could tell the home side had only claimed 3 out of the last 21 points.
The carnival-like atmosphere cut through the gloomy skies; noise reverberating as if it was a gladiator’s duel to the death. It may well have been. The last couple of months were testing for Jose Bordalas’ men. But we delivered today, conquering Europa League champions Villarreal 2-0 to end a wretched run – and Batzine was there to witness it.
Four Valencia alumni in Dani Parejo, Francis Coquelin, Paco Alcacer and Yellow Submarines coach Unai Emery returned to their former stomping ground hoping for a win. They must have wished they were still with the Bats.
The Derbi de la Comunitat is known for its feisty moments, and this one was no different. Just a few seconds after kickoff, Uros Racic lay crumpled in a heap after a challenge from Coquelin. It set the tone for the rest of the match.
For long spells of the first-half, Valencia were second best. Misplaced passes, failure to spot teammates’ runs and an overall lack of creativity elicited groans from the crowd. Every time an attack seemed to build up, we were suffocated by the visitors to perfection.
A collective sigh of relief emanated when Jasper Cillessen palmed away a goal-bound shot 5 minutes before the break. What came next raised the decibels.
Hugo Guillamon, in a defensive midfield role, deftly controlled a throw-in and ghosted through 3 defenders before lifting the ball over an onrushing Geronimo Rulli in the 43rd minute with all the composure of a veteran striker.
The goal unleashed almost 2 months of pent-up frustration. Its cathartic effect prompted the crowd to roar in jubilation, as Valencia took the lead against the run of play going into half-time. Unfortunately for Villarreal, the second half played on in similar fashion – having the monster’s share of possession but conceding to their regional rivals.
With just under 15 minutes left, Dimitri Foulquier advanced into the box and was upended by former Liverpool man Alberto Moreno. The crowd went wild. Penalty. Top scorer Carlos Soler, who had entered as a substitute, stroked it down the middle as delirium ensued.
There was still time for more drama as captain Jose Gaya left the field to be treated following a challenge, only for opposing coach Emery to engage him for time-wasting. Cue the whistles as fans immediately stood up – some removing their masks – to aim choice words at the former gaffer.
As the 4th official revealed 8 minutes of injury time, the Mestalla faithful threw their hands up in disgust. But tonight was Valencia’s night. At full-time, the celebratory mood was in full swing.
While the proverbial monkey is off the back, the jury is still out. Victory in next week’s game against LaLiga champions Atletico Madrid may provide hope that our poor spell is over.
Said goalscorer Guillamon: “The team has suffered when the results weren’t coming, and winning this game at Mestalla in front of our fans was very special. We’ve ended that run from our recent games, and this one is for the fans too.”