|Valencia (4)||LOSC Lille (1)|
|Dani Parejo 66′ P|
Adama Soumaoro 82′ OG
Geoffrey Kondogbia 84′
Ferran Torres 90′
|Victor Osimhen 25′|
What a comeback. What a performance. And what a result.
The boys staged another comeback in a 10-minute blitz that is likely to define the club’s season. Three quickfire goals pulled Los Che back from the brink in a remarkable turnaround that blew Group H of the Champions League wide open.
Expectations were high for the club coming into the match. Albert Celades billed it as Valencia’s “most important game of the season,” while left back Jose Gaya labelled the match as a final.
Victory would give them a fighting chance of qualifying for the last 16 of the Champions League. But failure would immediately raise more questions about Celades’s future, with fans baying for blood.
But on the account of the first half, Valencia did not look close to providing any answers. The lessons gleaned from France a fortnight ago were clearly not heeded.
By 20 minutes, Lille had already registered six shots, compared to just one from Valencia. While the visitors looked lethal, the home team simply looked lethargic.
Their sluggishness would come to haunt them in the 25th minute when Dani Parejo was caught in possession by midfielder Zeki Celik. The ball ricocheted into the path of Lille dangerman Victor Osimhen, who finished calmly past an advancing Jasper Cillesen. The typically boisterous Mestella crowd fell silent.
It would only get worse, as Dennis Cheryshev pulled up injured just six minutes later, with Ferran Torres coming on as a replacement. The first half ended in a symphony of boos.
But just as they had done so at Espanyol over the weekend, Valencia would complete another stunning reversal. Whatever Celedas had told the team at the half time break clearly worked.
The comeback began in the 66th minute when the referee awarded a penalty after Southampton alumnus Jose Fonte handled the ball in the area. With Valencia’s Champions leagues hopes in the balance, Parejo was impervious to the pressure as he pulled off the audacious again with another panenka.
The captain’s chutzpah seemed to spark belief into his side, who began clawing their way back into the game as the visitors were forced onto the backfoot.
Then, they exploded into life. The goal glut started with a Lille own goal, after Gaya’s cross into the box deflected off defender Adama Soumaoro.
Geoffrey Kondogbia, a colossus in midfield all match, then provided the goal of the match just two minutes later with a screamer from range.
As Lille completely unravelled, the live-wire Torres, who had proven to be an inspired substitution, completed the frenzied finish after being fed by assist king Rodrigo Moreno.
“This was a very important match for us,” said Kondogbia after the game. “We will keep fighting till the end.”
The result now sees the team remain third, but level on points with Ajax and Chelsea after the other Group H encounter ended in a 4-4 draw.
It would only get more difficult from here. But with two consecutive turnarounds in four days, there is a determined belief about this resurgent Valencia team.