|Valencia (1)||Athletic Bilbao (1)|
|Marcos Andre 90+5′||Inigo Martinez 69′|
The writing seemed to be on the wall. “3 losses in a week!” the headlines would scream.
Yet this Valencia side under Jose Bordalas defies narratives. After all, we beat Getafe in the season opener playing with 10 men almost the whole game.
When Maxi Gomez was sent off on 81 minutes with the team 0-1 down against Athletic Bilbao, it seemed a lost cause. But Marcos Andre, our new Brazilian striker, wrote himself into the script with a 95th-minute equaliser, his first goal for the club.
After 2 consecutive (albeit expected, you might say) losses against the league’s big-hitters Real Madrid and Sevilla, a 3rd defeat would have absolutely sapped our morale. Against an unfancied Bilbao side which finished 10th last season, we had to get a result at least, especially in front of an expectant 13,680-strong home crowd.
But in the 28 deg heat of the Mestalla cauldron, Los Che were thirsting for invention and creativity through much of the game. In the injury-enforced absence of Carlos Soler, Jose Gaya and Thierry Correia, we were short of attacking thrust through the middle and down the flanks.
A major concern was our outlet balls from the back. Jasper Cillessen claimed his first start of the season, displacing Giorgi Mamrdashvili. But his distribution was poor, even if he did make a stunning save right at the end to salvage the point. New recruits Omar Alderete and Dimitri Foulquier, while dependable defensively, were neither accurate nor progressive in their passes.
The defence was also constantly exposed, especially in the first half, with pacey Bilbao forward Inaki Williams often running at Gabriel Paulista and Alderete. Where was the midfield screen?
There were bright spots in our attacking play, mostly provided by the irrepressible Goncalo Guedes. The Portuguese has the rare, uncanny ability to get crowds on their feet and opposition defenders to sit on their bottoms. Daniel Wass had a long-ranger tipped onto the post. Hugo Duro and Yunus Musah did not provide similar verve, but were faultless in their exertions as they crunched into tackles.
Gomez, however, was simply on a different wavelength with his errant touches and overall lack of threat. He was also partially at fault, along with Hugo Guillamon, for Bilbao’s headed goal from a corner as he lost his man.
It was perhaps fitting that Valencia found the equalising goal after Gomez’s departure – a second yellow after a needless pullback.
His possible replacement in the first XI, Andre, popped up with the goal, following good work by Guillamon and Guedes to find him in the box. Andre finished with aplomb to sweep home the last-gasp equaliser.
Bordalas, with his signature glasses taken off at the tail-end of the game, would not have envisioned such a drab spectacle put up by his team today.
File this game under “Point taken, move on”. It’s been a hell of a week, and we finally have a week’s breathing space before Cadiz next weekend.