|Real Valladolid (0)||Valencia (1)|
|Carlos Soler 74′|
Timing is everything, especially for midfielders.
When to run into space. When to launch a killer pass. When to shoot. Get a couple of these things right and you stand a chance of doing well; get all of them right and you could be as good as Carlos Soler.
With 14 minutes to go to the final whistle, Soler found himself in ample space near the edge of Real Valladolid’s penalty box, about 20 yards away from the goal. Jose Gaya’s clinical pass to him from the left flank a few seconds earlier was straight from the training ground — crisp, clear and with just the right amount of pace for him to plan his next move.
With Daniel Wass and Manu Vallejo through on goal in the penalty box, the convenient thing to do would have been to tap the ball to either of them.
Yet, Soler had other plans. He looked up, calmed himself and whipped the ball past the outstretched Jordi Masip to give Los Che the lead and, eventually, our first LaLiga win in two months.
The win marked the end of an eight-match winless streak in LaLiga since November, one which left us near the bottom of the table rather than the top where we are used to hanging out. And the boys did it with some swag.
Soler has become a key player for the team. Sitting at the heart of midfield, he moved the ball quickly and drove the team past a bewildered Valladolid, which had only lost two of their last 11 games in all competitions.
Opportunities came thick and fast throughout the first half. Real Valladolid monopolised possession in the early stages but the Los Che defended with a unity and sharpness at odds with their previous outings.
The second half picked up where the first had quietly faded off, underscored by a greater sense of urgency from Javi Gracia’s men. Some neat passing triangles between Wass and Lee Kang In in the centre of the park ended with Maxi Gomez stabbing just wide. Supported by the ever-reliable Gaya, Denis Cheryshev started to make more incisive runs into the box.
Something was stirring.
What changed? A growing familiarity in the team. The midfield partnership between crafty Soler and Hulk-like Uros Racic is proving to be a revelation. Their quick passing and creativity in midfield helped drive the team forward with pacy and high-pressing aggression.
Here, Soler produced an unforgettable masterclass in unhurried defensive playmaking, with shades of classic Ruben Baraja shining through. The team is also managing to tighten up at the back, with Hugo Guillamon a calming influence to the usually error-prone Mouctar Diakhaby.
To be certain, the win simply moves us up to 13th. The next games will define our season, starting with Osasuna, Atletico Madrid and underdogs Elche. Win these and we will be challenging for European football again, especially since the table has been so tight this season.
Soler’s contribution will be crucial to our form but more than that, it will take the entire team to build on the momentum. Who is ready to stand and be counted?