|Celta Vigo (2)||Valencia (1)|
|Iago Aspas 13′, 57′||Maxi Gomez 46′|
There were signs last week that Los Che have a weak spine running through the team. Saturday evening’s loss at the Balaidos Stadium confirmed it, as Celta Vigo toyed with the Valencia defence seemingly at will.
As with Levante, the Bats almost caved within a minute, as Geoffrey Kondogbia had the ball pinched from his toes in his defensive third, leading to a shot whistling over Jaume Domenech’s crossbar. You knew then it was going to be a hellish 90 minutes, with Celta’s trademark pulverising by prodding through the centre.
Minute 13: A hot sky-blue knife cut through bright orange burrata cheese. Nolito turned past Yunus Musah – the Englishman almost half his age – before waltzing through four Valencia players who shirked a tackle. Yes, FOUR. A through ball to Celta talisman Iago Aspas. 1-nil.
Poor old Domenech was under siege throughout as Celta fired 23 shots to Valencia’s 9. The less said about Moucktar Diakhaby the better, who was determined to make a meal out of every simple ball coming his way.
Most concerning was how the youth failed to shine this time. Musah was muted. Lee Kang In, designated playmaker-in-chief, was only notable by his protest to take a freekick ahead of his captain. Vicente Esquerdo was comprehensively overrun in midfield next to a stretched Kondogbia, and the youngster duly conceded the freekick that led to Celta’s winner. The squad is brimming with talent, but it is untested and still requires the guiding nous of battle-hardened pros. This transfer season could correct that.
The only spark was Maxi Gomez. So impressive last week with a hand in 3 of the 4 goals, he finished with assured aplomb 30 seconds after the restart against his former club. A rasping half-volley that swerved right in. Javi Gracia celebrated by thumping his fists against the plastic bleachers, which shook. After all, it was his double substitution at the break which led to the goal. This is a coach who isn’t afraid to make bold changes.
But it wasn’t enough. Valencia’s off-colour play failed to match the exuberant bright shirts on their backs. No sign of the thrilling counter attacks, or even simple outlet passing from the back. At one point, Jose Gaya found himself dribbling towards his own goal under pressure, gesturing furiously.
“It was similar to Levante, they got through us too easily,” said the captain post-match, who added that Valencia have to get results away from home. The team’s last away win was in December. After losing against a team that escaped relegation by a point last season, it looks like a long season ahead. Strap in for a ride.