Villarreal USA would like to congratulate Valencia CF on winning the Copa del Rey. We expect our Valencia-supporting (and, as he puts it, ‘reluctant admirer of Villarreal’) friend Jiwonsi is celebrating like mad right now. And if he’s not, he should.
Los Che went 2-0 up before halftime as Marcelino’s game plan, familiar to us from his years at Villarreal, worked like a charm. Let Barca possess the ball 70-75% of the time, then hit them on the counterattack with speed and precise passing. A long pass down the left to Gayá, a cutback feed to the top of the box where Kevin Gamiero lurked, and one right-footed smash later, it was 1-0 in the 21st minute.
The second goal—well, Dani Parejo got a pass from keeper Jaume Domenech (ex-Villarreal canterano) in midfield, eventually Valencia found space and played the ball forward on the right, where Carlos Soler and Jordi Alba found themselves in a footrace. Hint: Remember when Villarreal’s Samu Chukwueze took on Alba? This was similar. Soler steamed on, untroubled by Alba, and made a perfect cross to the far post where Rodrigo was completely unmarked.
After the break Gayá had a great chance to make it three, but pulled his shot wide of the goal, and one wondered if Valencia would regret that, especially since Barcelona had messi-and he clanged a left-footed shot off a post at the other end. Messi scored in the 73rd minute, though, and you just knew Barca would find a way to score again.
Except that they didn’t. Even though the referee added five minutes time—partly because of a water break, I guess, but it still seemed way too much. Barca had Piqué playing as a striker at the end, but the best chances fell to Valencia’s Guedes, who somehow contrived to keep the score at 2-1 (twice!!) when it would have been easier to score.
No matter, Valencia held firm and the cup was theirs. Success for ex-Villarreal manager Marcelino, nearly fired in January, and for former Submarino man Gabriel Paulista (if you missed this interview with him Sid Lowe did awhile back, read it here).
I’m sure there are plenty of Villarreal supporters who were hoping Valencia would lose, just as there were many who hoped they’d win. I confess I am one of the latter—this is Valencia’s 100th anniversary, and it’s good to see Marcelino lift a trophy. Besides, Valencia is an amazing city and my wife (who loooooves fireworks!!!) enjoyed it far more than Barcelona, so my loyalties are clear :)
Just a reminder to everyone that regular Villarreal programming resumes tomorrow—we have a Segunda B playoff between our 3rd placed B team and Melilla. Valencia’s B team is on vacation after narrowly avoiding relegation and finishing in 13th place. (See what I did there?)
ENDAVANT.....and enhorabona, Los Che!