|Valencia (1)||Eibar (0)|
|Maxi Gomez 27′|
Size matters. Maxi Gomez proved this as he comfortably shrugged off Eibar’s 1.72m right-back Alvaro Tejero for the game-winning header. A huge three points against LaLiga’s smallest team, who hail from a Basque town of 27,000 – half the Mestalla’s capacity.
It’s the new year, but the same old imperious home form remains. The victory stretches the run to 10 unbeaten at fortress Mestalla. It’s all the sweeter against a bogey team. Eibar had picked up seven points in the past three encounters at Valencia’s home – and were the last LaLiga side to win here.
And Eibar’s confidence showed, belying their 16th position in the league. Known as the Gunsmiths, they started the game firing with self-belief on the ball. They pressed high, pressuring Jaume Domenech – who kept his place ahead of Jasper Cillessen in what proved to be the right choice.
But Valencia were even better, and should have been at least three up at the half-time whistle.
Maxi’s partnership with Rodrigo is one that fans need to see more of, with their telepathic interplay. The Bull, returning after almost a month out injured, is proving more and more of an astute signing with each game. His bullet header today makes him Valencia’s top league goal scorer with seven.
The duo were magic – yet Ferran Torres was head and shoulders above all on the pitch in a majestic first-half performance. A nutmeg that took him past two Eibar players saw 50,000 fans gasp in awe. This kid needs to be contracted for life at the club.
Then Los Che, as usual, had fans anxious on their seats for all the wrong reasons. Somehow, the team not only took their foot off the gas in the second half, but switched off the engine and took a siesta. Eibar, credit to them, played their way back into the game, hitting the crossbar on 50 minutes after lax Valencia defending at a corner. Domenech and his fingertips preserved the narrow lead on a few occasions.
That’s the Bats’ season so far summed up. Jekyll and Hyde, Batman and Fatman – call it whatever you like. The team excite as much as they frustrate. Most in the ground would admit that they expected a last-minute Eibar equaliser, but today Valencia held on.
Not the rout the first-half Los Che performance promised, but we don’t care. It’s a crucial win that takes Valencia to within a point of the Champions League spot.*
It will be sweet dreams on the flight to Jeddah for the Supercopa then, as we say goodbye to Valencia’s centenarian year. Here’s to another century of winning, dreaming and tears – of both joy and sadness.
*Atletico Madrid later won their game in hand against Levante, leaving Valencia four points adrift of the Champions League spots.