|Valencia (2)||Real Sociedad (2)|
|Daniel Wass 61′ (P)|
Gabriel Paulista 73′
|Ander Guevara 33′|
Alexander Isak 45′
In the end, it only took seven yellow cards, one red card, two penalties — one scuffed — and a moment of magic from Gabriel Paulista for Valencia to wrench a thrilling 2-2 draw at the Mestalla.
On a slightly overcast Sunday evening, Valencia and Real Sociedad fought out a commendably feisty draw that will leave Javi Gracia the happier manager. Los Che produced a compact, resilient performance and might easily have won, if not for shoddy defending, a lack of firepower in the final third and a moment of folly.
But it did not start this way. The Bats produced a vibrant and sharp first-half performance, in contrast to their defeat against Cadiz last week, although the ruthlessness in front of goal that has been absent throughout this season was laid bare. Despite a spirited display in midfield, the partnership upfront between Goncalo Guedes and Maxi Gomez remained weak and uninspired.
Still, Valencia continued to dominate, the midfield four lurking in half-spaces, creating a formidable high-press attack with the wing-backs on both flanks. Carlos Soler was the vital cog, his ability to anticipate runs and carry the ball forward at speed the best way to break through a high La Real press.
So it was all the more painful when Soler — our go-to penalty taker this season with six penalty goals to his name — scuffed a penalty in the 30th minute following a handball by Andoni Gorosabel.
Imanol Alguacil’s men capitalised on the reprieve. Three minutes later, Ander Guevara made it 1- 0 to the visitors with a low shot from outside the box following a tantalising run by Mikel Oyerzabal. A few minutes later in the 45th minute, Alexander Isak would make it 2-0 after a miskicked clearance by Paulista that ran straight into the 21-year-old Swedish forward’s path, leaving him a clear run on goal.
And then something within Valencia clicked. The hosts started the second half aggressively, pouring forward in a series of white and black waves. After a few close attempts on goal, the Bats settled in steadily, dominating the possession.
The intensity paid off. Following a horrible stomp on Paulista in the 60th minute by Carlos Fernandez in the six-yard box, Daniel Wass would step up to the penalty spot to make it 2-1.
Thirteen minutes later, it became 2-2, courtesy of a brilliant swerving cross by Guedes from the left flank onto the almost levitating, outstretched forehead of Paulista.
Just as things seemed to be looking upbeat something happened that was simultaneously startling, avoidable and also crushingly unfortunate.
Having been booked for a yellow card offence for a silly tackle on Guevara in the 78th minute, Gomez was shown a second yellow for contempt after arguing with the fourth official.
With eight more games left to play, Los Che cannot afford to lose focus with such silly petulance.