|Valencia (1)||Espanyol (0)|
|Kevin Gameiro 17′|
How quickly fortunes can change within a year. When Valencia played their final home game last season, the atmosphere at the Mestalla was thunderous as fans roared a team fighting furiously for a Champions League place to victory over Alaves.
This time, the Mestalla was an empty shell devoid of noise, stripped of its atmosphere, as the Bats played for the last time at home this season. This time, hopes of even making the Europa League look extremely slim.
So Voro opted to look forward. With a summer exodus seemingly impending, the caretaker manager’s starting eleven may have offered a glimpse of what the team’s line-up would look like next season. Against an already relegated Espanyol, young guns like Thierry Correia and Lee Kang In were offered rare starts as they looked to become the faces of the club’s new era.
The old guard like Gabriel Paulista and Dani Parejo were benched, seemingly on their way out. Others who started, like Geoffrey Kondogbia and Kevin Gameiro, may have also played their last match at the Mestalla tonight.
But while the academy talents were the future, it was two players with potential exits on the cards who provided the breakthrough tonight. Ferran Torres, linked with a mega-money move to English giants Manchester City, put a sumptuous ball clean through to Gameiro who finished neatly past Espanyol’s keeper Diego Lopez.
With both teams having nothing much left to play for, this had the feels of an exhibition match. Despite a Jaume Costa red card in the dying moments, Valencia saw things through. But there is much work to be done. We were lucky to escape with a win. Espanyol – a team that had lost their previous five matches – were dominant as they hit the post twice. Our issues at the back will be the first thing that the new manager has to fix if we are to challenge for Europe next season.
But in the performances of the academy starlets tonight, there is hope. Hugo Guillamon has the makings of a classy centre back. Carlos Soler has shown signs that he can replace Parejo as the heartbeat of the team. Lee, full of trickery and running tonight, can follow in Torres’s footsteps. The road ahead may be long and hard, but the quality is there. The rebuilding begins.