Only three days had passed since the unfortunate night at the Mestalla that brought Valencia's cup to an abrupt end. Fans feared their team would take the blame for the blow. But the Valencia team knew how to stay on their feet in the ample minutes in which Athletic dominated them with their elegant football, taking advantage of a stroke of genius from Gayá and a goal from Hugo Duro, another goal, to recover and achieve a victory The fourth in a row for the team of Rubén Baraja, a coach who does not accept new signings but finds them at home. First at the Quarry, with the army of youngsters he has absorbed, and then relying heavily on Hugo Duro, who has become a very prolific goalscorer this season. Now it's nine o'clock.
Mamardashvili, Gayá, Cristhian Ibarguen, Gabriel Paulista, Foulquier, Sergi Canos (Yaremchuk, Min. 13), Pepelu, Hugo Guillamón, Francisco Martinez (Thierry Correia, Min. 69), Diego López (Vazquez Alcalde, Min. 82) and Hugo Hard
Unai Simón, Daniel Vivian, Aitor Paredes, Yuri, Lekue, O. Sancet (Raúl García, Min. 79), Benat Prados (Unai Gómez, Min. 68), Ander Herrera (Ruiz de Galarreta, Min. 62), Nico Williams (Malcom Adu, Min. 78), Berenguer and Guruzeta (Villalibre, Min. 68)
Goals 1-0 min 61: Hugo Duro.
referee Juan Luis Pulido Santana
Yellow cards Nico Williams (min. 55), Daniel Vivian (min. 89) and Malcom Adu (min. 91)
Athletic jumped into the Mestalla this Saturday as if it were in San Mamés. The ball was his and the triangulations allowed him to get around Valencia's defensive structure. Almost automated mechanisms. Nevertheless, the first dangerous move was led by Canós with a deep pass into the penalty area and a less precise follow-up shot. The Nules winger was convinced it could be his afternoon. But his nerves lasted 12 minutes. After an impact he fell to the ground. Some muscle problems forced him to give way to Yaremchuk.
By then the party had become a pendulum. Valencia's verticality reinforced the Lions' dominance. Three passes and run. But Athletic kept going and kept going. Upon contact, he looked for superiority in every area of the field, giving Nico Williams a lane so he could take advantage of his speed, although he encountered a foulquier who kept his hand. Barajas' team accused them of moving at a faster pace. He no longer knew how to go deep and the Valladolid coach tried it by switching sides to Fran Pérez, a player who finds it difficult to choose the best option on the last pass.
Pepelu stepped forward to support his team. Beñat Prados up front was ahead of the players. He watched football with a magnifying glass. He moved the ball carefully and let Williams face Mamardashvili with a pass into the box. An unbeatable chance to decide the tie, but the puppy broke it up with a very easy shot for the goalkeeper.
The Athletic players were always in the right place and that undermined Valencia, who were getting smaller and smaller. There was no debate in the stands, where you could easily distinguish many red and white shirts and even some txapelas. Ernesto Valverde's team knows what they are doing very well. That was their argument to reach third place in the league. While his opponent showed an ever shorter repertoire.
The locals decided to make the game ugly, hamper it and cut off Athletic's rhythm. And so they avoided coming into the break from behind. The Lions, who are more than confident after fourteen games, ten of them in the league, without defeat, were missing the extra point in the final meters to secure their superiority. The goal was missing.
After the break, Athletic came into play more directly and after another move with Valverde's shot, Sancet added a shot from inside the penalty area that went just wide of the post. It took three minutes for the Bilbao team to announce that they would not take any detours.
Valencia entrusted itself to the internships of Diego López, a player who knows how to find the hitherto too lonely Hugo Duro. He wouldn't feel this way anymore. On the hour mark, José Luis Gayá played a telescopic pass from the left wing, which the black and white striker, rising above Yuri, headed into the goal. His nine goals this season are the same as he has scored in his entire First Division career. Young people would say he is in his prime. Because the man from Madrid is experiencing his best time and scoring goals that are gradually driving his team towards Europe.
Valverde moved the pieces around the board and added even more gunpowder with Villalibre and Unai. But Valencia was in one of those days where, driven by its 45,000 fans, it put so much effort into it that it was very difficult to break through. The changes gave more bite and Mamardashvili avoided the tie after a hard shot from Unai Gómez.
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