|Valencia (1)||Espanyol (2)|
|Omar Alderete 51′||Raul de Tomas 83′ (P)|
Javi Puado 88′
The year’s gone by in the haze of the pandemic, as days and months formed a nebulous coagulation. Valencianistas found our Champions League dreams, like 2021, equally fleeting.
Minute 81: Being 1-0 up against Espanyol promised ending the year in the coveted 4th spot. By 88 minutes, we were on the receiving end of a comeback for once, as the visitors struck in quick succession to ruin New Year celebrations across the city.
Newly-promoted Espanyol registered their first away win, but it wasn’t undeserved. Even as we hit the post early on with a Hugo Duro header following scintillating work down the right by Helder Costa, the Bats were never fully in control.
After Omar Alderete powered in his 2nd league goal of the season with a thumping header, Espanyol continued to trouble our goal. This was the defensive frailty Jose Bordalas furrowed his brows over in his pre-match interview. In the absence of mainstay Gabriel Paulista, our defence was left floundering.
Again, it boggles why Maxi Gomez continues to start, as he was a phantom through the game. Duro was far brighter but came to undo his good work with a succession of yellows that saw him sent off in a career first. The first caution for a petulant shove, the second a cynical clip on Jofre Carreras as the Espanyol man was about to shoot. The resulting penalty squeezed frustratingly right under Jasper Cillessen.
Credit to Los Che as we continued to fashion chances, but were dealt a killer blow when a swinging cross from the right evaded our defence for Javi Puado to squeeze in the late winner.
As we bid adieu to 2021 and our 9-match unbeaten streak, 2022 nevertheless holds hope.
We are in the thick of the battle for European spots, our youngsters are being blooded, and our loan signings have integrated seamlessly. The winter transfer window might hold more surprises yet, and who knows, we might just trouble the Champions League positions again.