LIGA BBVA | VALENCIA 2 - LEVANTE 0
Piatti and Feghouli cap dream debut for Pizzi
Goals either side of half-time put the seal on a convincing performance from Valencia under the new coach.
The Valencian derby could quite easily have taken a very different course if referee Muñiz Fernández had noticed Bernat’s lunge on Rubén Suárez in the first minute of tonight game at Mestalla. The Asturian match official didn’t blow for a penalty and there were 89 minutes left to play in Juan Antonio’s debut on the Valencia bench.
And the Argentinean complied by achieving what usually happens when there is a managerial switch – an assured victory - one which let’s Valencia start 2014 on the best possible footing. And they really it... The ‘Pizzi Effect’ was more about inspiration than bringing any great changes in football terms. After just six days working with the team on the training pitch, watching tonight’s game was like witnessing a Lourdes miracle unfold before our very eyes. Pizzi’s arrival has had a spellbinding effect on Feghouli who played to the peak of his ability and was the star performer out on the pitch against the Granotas.
Until five minutes before the break, it was an unruly game which swayed from one end of the pitch to the other. Feghouli shaved the upright with a wild attempt but that was Valencia’s closest effort against a highly-defensive Levante side who were determined to give away as little as possible. Joaquín Caparros’ conservative tactics came unstuck when an El Adoua clearance landed in the path of Pablo Piatti, who rifled past Keylor Navas with relish to open the scoring.
The morale boost which followed Piatti’s opener encouraged Valencia to press for a second goal. Oriol, Parejo and Bernat took full control in the final third and it was only then that we started to see a side in full stride and oozing with confidence, which is exactly what Pizzi has asked for.
Caparrós meanwhile, realized that he had to do something or run the risk of leaving Mestalla without having put up a fight in the local derby. Despairingly, he brought on El Zhar and Xumetra who did put Levante back into the game for a short while and could have levelled when Barral gained a yard on Ricardo Costa only for his shot to be tipped wide by Diego Alves.
That was Levante’s last chance to restore parity; not long after, Feghouli sentenced the game with an exceptional individual goal. Picking the ball up 30 yards out, the Algerian stormed goalwards; darting past both of Levante’s centre-backs then, sent a delicate chip over the outcoming Keylor Navas, the ball entering off the underside of the bar.