|Valencia (2)||Athletic Bilbao (2)|
|Carlos Soler 26′ (P)|
Manu Vallejo 83′
|Asier Villalibre 55′|
Raul Garcia 79′ (P)
Another game, another fightback.
Just when Valencia looked to have thrown this game away, they managed to escape from the jaws of defeat once again when Manu Vallejo popped up with a header with just 7 minutes left on the clock.
But Javi Gracia would have seen this as 2 points dropped. This mid-table clash between 13th and 14th signalled a golden opportunity for Los Che to break away from the team below them. They failed to go for the jugular when they had the chance to.
It was all going so well for the home side at the half time break. Carlos Soler had put them ahead from the spot after Maxi Gomez was felled in the penalty box, the defence was adeptly handling whatever Bilbao were throwing at them, and the visitors were so afraid of getting hit on the counter that they rarely made forays into Valencia’s 18-yard box. Gracia’s game plan was working.
However, the second half was downright disappointing. Perhaps they were feeling the strain of a punishing season. Perhaps they were complacent. But the home side were limp and lifeless after the break. And they paid the price when Bilbao equalised through striker Asier Villalibre.
It got worse when Uros Racic felled Bilbao’s captain Iker Muniain in the penalty area. Raul Garcia, the player who had been solely responsible for ending The Bats’ unbeaten streak at home last season, made it 2-1.
This jolted Valencia back to life. And if there’s one thing Gracia’s men can do this season, it is to fight – this is a team that does not know how to accept defeat. Only 4 minutes later, Soler whipped in a cross for an unmarked Vallejo to head home.
But while their never-say-die spirit is laudable, Gracia’s young team needs to learn how to see out games. We cannot keep trying to come back from the dead. Sooner or later, luck will run out. And the players know it.
“We’re not considering this a good result,” said Vallejo. “We allowed 2 points to get away from us… We are Valencia, we have to compete for the win.”