The atmosphere at the Benito Villamarin on Sunday evening was electrifying and the football wasn’t bad either. The only time the crowd died down was during the minute’s silence before kick-off and immediately after Valencia scored.
The game itself warranted such an atmosphere so infrequently found in Spain. In what we built up as potential game of the season in our match preview, it truly lived up to expectation. It was an engrossing game to watch – with nine different goalscorers and four substitutes also scoring.
Real Betis started comfortably and were smooth in their passing along with playing in tight spaces. They changed their avenue of attack from left to right regularly in an attempt to stretch the Valencia defence. This was a common theme of Betis’ attack on the night and shows that they are really buying into Quique Setien’s coaching.
Jose Gaya was Valencia’s biggest threat in the opening half. He found himself inside the attacking third for a lot of the match, while Nacho Vidal took up a similar position on the right.
Valencia struggled in the opening 30 minutes as they forced their passes too much. Rather than playing with comfort and fluidity as Betis did, Kondogbia in particular gave away a number of balls from such situations.
For Betis in the opening 30 minutes, Andres Guardado provided a threat from a deep-lying position where he was able to spray the ball around the field. Himself, Fabian and Joaquin were connecting well. When the Spanish u-21 star played a through ball into Sanabria, Valencia’s defence led by Murillo stepped up and the Paraguayan was judged offside.
After this, the game kicked into full flow. Guedes hit Valencia’s first decent attempt in the 33rd minute following brilliant defending by Jeison Murillo. He won the ball via a slide tackle, controlled it and found an out ball to Gaya under pressure. This started a counter attack for Valencia and resulted in Guedes’ shot.
Rodrigo should have scored a minute later; Gaya crossed toward the front post to the striker but he could only put it wide. Immediately after, Valencia won the ball where it was fed to Parejo 25 yards out. He turned Guardado, opened his body for a shot but slipped in Rodrigo instead. The striker then tried to square the ball to Zaza but it was cleared for a corner. From the resulting corner, Parejo put it in line with the front post six yards out. Kondogbia freed himself of Fabian and powered his header into the far bottom corner. Betis 0-1 Valencia.
Valencia went on another counter attack on the 37th minute where Guardado was too weak in his attempt of stopping Paraejo. The Spaniard then slipped the ball into Carlos Soler where he took the ball into the box and was tackled last minute by Durmisi. Replays show that a penalty should have been awarded.
Real Betis’ best move came on the 43rd minute. Guardado picked up the ball deep, played it to Joaquin on the left. He played it centrally to Fabian, who played an incisive pass through Valencia’s defence back into Joaquin’s path. The veteran’s attempted pass to Sanabria was just a little too much behind the Paraguayan and he couldn’t finish inside the six-yard box.
Just before half time, there was a lot of action in and around the Real Betis box. Gaya got the ball on the left and crossed toward fellow Mastella graduate Soler who hit a technically perfect volley toward goal. Adan got down well to save and at the second attempt, Guardado managed to clear the ball despite a high boot from Zaza (should have been a free). The ball fell to the feet of Guedes 30 yards out. He didn’t have any hesitation and with one step, unleashed an unstoppable shot into the left hand top corner past a helpless Adan. Real Betis 0-2 Valencia.
Betis won a penalty on the 54th minute after Barragan ripped a cross in from the right. The ball hit off Kondogbia’s arm and the referee awarded a penalty. From the resulting spot kick, Sergio Leon powered it down the middle. Diving to his right, Neto managed to not only get a foot to the ball, but kick it. It soared it’s way down the middle of the field to Guedes but was unable to finish as he was stopped up by Mandi. Straight after this, Valencia picked up the ball on another counter attack where Zaza would have headed into an empty net only for last second intervention from Zou Feddal. Hectic stuff.
It was clear that Javi Garcia was missing from this team as the space between Betis’ midfield and defence was too much. Zaza was able to pick up balls in this space all game. It also left Betis’ defence exposed once Valencia got passed their midfield. This was the reason behind Valencia having so much success on counter attacking plays.
Valencia’s third goal was the most disappointing from a Real Betis perspective. Having had time to organise their shape correctly, they didn’t. Valencia brought the ball into an attacking position with ease and ended up winning a corner. From this corner, Rodrigo headed home the third goal where Narvaez, his marker didn’t even challenge. Real Betis 0-3 Valencia.
Barragan went down the line on the 74th minute and attempted a pass down the line. This was cut out by Jose Gaya’s sliding tackle where he clearly handled the ball. The referee allowed play to continue. As is a common theme of Real Betis’ defence, they were left exposed and one long ball over the top by Gaya allowed Santi Mina face Mandi 1v1. He turned right, then left and shot. This shot was blocked by Mandi but the ball still managed to lob over Adan into the net. Real Betis 0-4 Valencia.
Jeison Murillo came off in the 78th minute with an injury after putting in a fantastic performance for Valencia. The Colombian managed 4 clearances, blocked 1 shot, made 3 interceptions and managed another 3 tackles during his 78 minutes. After being replaced by another summer signing Gabriel, the Valencia defence looked a lot less sturdy.
Just one minute after Murillo leaving the pitch, Real Betis scored. Joel Campbell, making his first appearance for the club this season was gifted a great opportunity. Gabriel played ball out of defence to Paraejo. In attempting to play it back, Gabriel moved the wrong way and it was essentially a through ball to Campbell who finished excellently. Real Betis 1-4 Valencia.
Just 1 minute later, the Costa Rican took the ball down Betis’ right, took on Gaya and played a ball into Sanabria. The Paraguayan rounded Neto and passed the ball into an unguarded net. Real Betis 2-4 Valencia.
Joel Campbell, having a storming debut found the ball on the right once again on the 84th minute. He turned Gaya one way, then another, crossed toward Sanabria but Garay headed away. The ball fell to Cristian Tello where he took one touch to settle himself and curled a volley into the right hand bottom corner past a frozen Neto. Real Betis 3-4 Valencia.
Valencia, on a counter attack from deep once again due to Betis seeking an unprecedented equaliser, played ball to Zaza. The defensive line from Betis was hopeless as Mandi well out of position. With the Italian suffering from cramp, he shot powerfully as soon as possible and finished through the legs of Adan. Real Betis 3-5 Valencia.
Again Real Betis didn’t stop going forward but in attacking down the left through Durmisi, Guedes stole the ball from the Dane. The Portuguese winger still full of energy took the ball from his own box to the opposite end of the pitch, played the ball centrally to Andres Pereira. The Brazilian turned onto his favourite right leg and curled a shot into the right hand top corner. Real Betis 3-6 Valencia.
For Real Betis, there are certainly positives to be taken from the game. They didn’t budge from their style of play at any point in the game and looked confident in their approach throughout. Even after going 4-0 down, they continued to play the football Setien clearly wants them to play. The lack of a combative defensive midfielder was sorely missed however. The defensive structure in general was also poor but Javi Garcia would have gone some way in sealing some of these cracks.
For Valencia, they move up to 2nd in the table and maintain their unbeaten record this season. They were clinical in taking their chances and this was the major difference between the sides. Valencia, mainly through Murillo were much tighter in defence also. The change in mentality form last season alone under Marcelino has been amazing for Valencia. Looking like real champions league qualifying contenders at the moment.
Regarding man of the match, Murillo until he was taken off was superb. After that, Joel Campbell stole the show as he scored one assisted another and was the direct cause of Betis’ third goal. Overall however, PSG loanee Goncalo Guedes was the best player on the pitch.
He completed 100% of his four dribble attempts, scored a spectacular goal and set up Pereira with another following amazing defensive work in the 94th minute. He also won eight out of the 10 duels he faced and won the ball back on three occasions. A real rounded effort from the Portugal international.