|LOSC Lille (1)||Valencia (1)|
|Jonathan Ikone 95′||Denis Cheryshev 63′|
When Mouctar Diakhaby misplaced a simple pass before clattering Victor Osimhen for his second yellow, it was the break Lille were waiting for. The French side had controlled, probed and surged, but no matter how much possession they had, the elusive goal would not come.
It was already the 84th minute. Only six more minutes to play plus time added. Not hell of a lot of time but it was enough. Diakhaby’s red card, Valencia’s second in two matches, gave Lille the chance to draw blood.
A melee ensued, bringing the enclosed Pierre-Mauroy stadium of 50,000 to a boil. But a 10-man Valencia was always going to struggle in such a cauldron.
Alas, the pressure finally told, at the heart-wrenching 95th minute, when substitute Jonathan Ikone smashed a shot into the roof of the net to grab a point. Priceless point for the hosts. But for Los Che, the two points dropped meant their Champions League fortunes are now in the balance.
Valencia’s final three group games are must-wins, said Albert Celades post-match. The teams brawl again in a fortnight at the Mestalla.
Celades must make sure that the lessons picked up in France are learnt when Lille visits. His side was sluggish and ponderous, making them looked unusually old compared to the French team, which has one of the youngest squads in the Champions League.
Los Che were befuddled by a first XI with an average age of 22, a squad brimming with energy and intent. And they showed it from the start. Valencia were penned in and could only hit on the break, playing balls down the right with Kevin Gameiro and Daniel Wass looking menacing early on.
Celades stuck with the central midfield trio who were so resolute at the weekend against Atletico, but in northern France they were run ragged.
Even captain Daniel Parejo couldn’t keep up. Captain Marvel against their Spanish counterparts, he looked more like a Steve Rogers who had hung up his shield, spraying wayward passes and turning over possession in a poor display. Attacking substitutes Carlos Soler and Lee Kang In failed to up the ante.
Celades admitted post-match he was caught off guard by two unexpected Lille starters, right midfielder Yazici and Zeki Celik, who joined him starboard. The plan? Bombard Valencia’s left channel. The dovetailing Turkish duo, both 22, delighted in roasting the 31-year-old Jaume Costa like kebab with their foraging runs.
Despite the pressure, the Valencia defence just about managed to hold firm for large parts of the game. And the soak-and-smash strategy paid off. In the 63rd minute, Parejo received a pass from Wass and quickly laid it off to Maxi Gomez. Gomez’s first-time pass to release Kevin Gameiro was exquisitely weighted and the French veteran found Denis Cheryshev open.
The Russian went for power and made up for his Atletico miss, bagging his career-first Champions League goal. It should have been a winner…until Diakhaby’s red mist.