|Alaves (1)||Valencia (1)|
|Edgar Mendez 73′||Dani Parejo 34′|
Scoring an other-worldly free-kick, followed by conceding from a basic defensive error. Sigh, typical Valencia. And just like that, our hopes of finishing in 4th are looking increasingly dim.
The gloom that has enveloped the team in recent weeks seemed to have dissipated slightly after last week’s victory against Real Betis. But Valencia’s 1-1 draw with Alaves at the Mendizorroza Stadium suggests the visitors have not yet completely put behind their lacklustre February form.
It started promisingly. A foul on Carlos Soler just outside the penalty box in the 34th minute saw Dani Parejo in range for goal. The next moment, Alaves keeper Fernando Pacheco was grasping the air in vain as the ball rifled past him into the top corner. It was a peach of a free-kick from our captain – his 8th league goal this season.
With that strike, Parejo has scored 11 free-kicks since the 14/15 season, 2nd only to Lionel Messi, who has 24. The goal was the sole highlight in a drab opening period, when both keepers had previously remained untested as the teams stroked the ball around without threatening in the final third. With rain lashing and temperatures falling to 7 deg Celsius, the players could be forgiven for wanting to tuck in and drink hot chocolate.
Albert Celades had opted to leave the fit-again Rodrigo Moreno, Francis Coquelin, Ferran Torres and Goncalo Guedes out of the starting line-up. And it looked like it was a smart call because Valencia were in the lead even without their stars.
But alas, Alaves took advantage of Valencia’s deficiencies on the road and, having won 2 of their last 3 games against us at home, they came out attacking in the 2nd half. The hosts shaped the narrative through their strike pair of former Premier League forwards Lucas Perez and Joselu, who have 11 and 9 league goals respectively to their names.
As the game wore on, Valencia tried to defend the one-goal lead. But the lack of quality in defence was telling. A botched attempt to clear an Alaves free-kick in the 73rd minute allowed the unmarked Edgar Mendez to lash home an equaliser. Gabriel Paulista’s anguished gestures said it all.
Valencia have now only won once in the last 5 LaLiga games. Having ceded the initiative to our rivals, we now have to face a rampant Atalanta in an empty Mestalla on Wednesday, hoping to overturn a 1-4 deficit. The silence will be deafening.