|Valencia (2)||Celta Vigo (0)|
|Maxi Gomez 28′|
Nestor Araujo (OG) 60′
Out in the blazing heat, Maxi Gomez was in red-hot form. This was the Uruguayan’s best performance all season, and fans were left to wonder what could have been, had he found his scoring boots more consistently.
Playing a starring role that came too late, Valencia’s no.9 was both creator and scorer as the home side ended a bittersweet campaign with a 2-0 win over Celta Vigo at Mestalla. A first win in 10 attempts underlined how awful we have been in recent weeks. An inquest is due.
For so long, Valencianistas filled the stadium and roared the team on. But the empty seats today highlighted the disappointment of what could have potentially been the best season since Los Che clinched the Copa del Rey in 2019.
As if spurred on to end on a high, Valencia began with conviction. The midfield resembled a well-oiled machine and it was almost a surprise to see the team stroking the ball around confidently, given how wretched our form has been.
Gomez seemed to relish the physical battle against his former team. He was everywhere, holding up the ball and making bending runs to create space. His poacher’s instinct came alive in the 28th minute when Marcos Andre miscued a Jose Gaya cross, sending the ball across the goal. Gomez saved his teammate’s blushes by throwing his chest out to meet the ball from a yard out. Advantage Valencia.
Skirmishes soon popped up all over the pitch. A real scrap was taking place and bodies crumpled to the ground under challenges. But the Bats were hell bent on displaying some grit. A fire burned within and the players roused themselves for a final showdown.
All that gusto almost came to naught when Celta’s Nolito somehow contrived to shoot straight at Jaume Domenech’s boots just before half-time when Valencia’s keeper was already lying on his back.
The break did little to slow our momentum. Gomez carried on his one-man mission and his cross on the hour mark forced defender Nestor Araujo to head the ball in his own net. Again, the striker turned away in muted celebration out of respect.
Valencia held on to secure the win and clean sheet, but thoughts will linger on how the positive energy of a month ago dissipated almost overnight. Los Che is on course to finish 9th, should Osasuna fail to win their final game. While this is an improvement from last season’s 13th, the team are only 5 points better off this time.
The hurt from the Copa final will surely take time to heal. But there is no hiding the fact that we should have been more clinical and less leaky in the bid to reach Europe. Now that the season is done and dusted, it is time to head back to the drawing board and see what summer brings.