First Division - Day 33

Valencia 1 - Villarreal 2

Valencia: Cañizares; Reveillère, Ayala, Marchena, Fabio Aurelio; Rufete (Carboni 46'), Baraja, Aimar, Vicente (Mista 65'); Juan Sánchez, Angulo. 4-4-2.
Villarreal: Reina; Javi Venta, Quique Alvarez, Ballesteros, Arruabarrena (Galván 79'); Josico (Quique Medina 80'), Farinós; Belletti, Jorge López, Calleja (Guayre 90'); De Nigris. 4-2-3-1.

Team changes: Valencia: Marchena, Aimar, Vicente, Juan Sánchez for Pellegrino, Carboni, De los Santos, Carew / Villarreal: Arruabarrena, Belletti, Calleja for Galván, Guayre, Víctor.

0-1. 37. Jorge López (penalty). After Marchena held back Ballesteros in area.
0-2. 41. Farinós. Shot from edge of area which Cañizares failed to stop.
1-2. 79. Juan Sánchez (penalty). After Sánchez pushed over by Arruabarrena.

One of the surprises of a weekend with no home wins was the defeat of Valencia by neighbours Villarreal. "The yellow submarine" had lost all three of their previous league visits to the Mestalla stadium, and having only picked up two points from their last four games nobody gave them much of a chance. Things seemed to be going Valencia's way when Vicente hit the post midway through the first half, but shortly before the break referee Iturralde González awarded the visitors a penalty when Marchena held on to Ballesteros, and after that they didn't look back. Jorge López converted the spot kick, and four minutes later ex Valencia midfielder Farinós scored a second with a shot from the edge of the area, Cañizares uncharacteristically letting the ball through his hands. Farinós refused to celebrate the goal out of respect for his old fans.

Rafa Benítez took off a disappointing Rufete at the break, but his choice of defender Carboni as substitute didn't go down well with the fans. For a quarter of an hour or so the locals put the pressure on Reina's goal, but then the visitors took charge again, winning the ball back with ease and keeping it away from their opponents for long periods. But just as Valencia were reaching rock bottom they got a goal back, Iturralde once again punishing a professional foul in the area by Arruabarrena with a penalty. Juan Sánchez tucked the kick away, and for the last ten minutes there was a frantic effort to get the equaliser, with Villarreal clearing one shot off the line with Reina beaten and Sánchez going close in the dying moments.

It was not to be though, and the demanding fans gave the local players a hard time as they left the field. With eight points now from their last twelve games the league champions find themselves out of the Champions League spots, although Celta's draw means they are still only a point adrift. Their neighbours go home though with the booty, and after dicing with the relegation zone they now find themselves only five points away from the UEFA spots, albeit still in fifteenth place. A good run from now on and who knows?