Valencia dominate PSG but lack a second goal

Posted by Dermot Ledwith

It was so near yet so far for a Valencia side that dominated three halves of football against a moneyed Paris Saint Germain side but ultimately paid for the first 45 minutes at Mestalla that saw two goals conceded and a first leg 2-1 reversal.

The PSG players and fans celebrated tonight's 1-1 draw as if they had reached a final; they knew it had been far closer than they had imagined. Valencia had dominated a compelling match and came close to grabbing a result in Paris.

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Los Che suffered Champions League pain in the same city 13 years ago when Real Madrid beat them 3-0 in the Champions League final. David Albelda was on the bench that night and the now veteran captain played his final game in Europe for his only ever club.

Albelda summed up the tie afterwards when he said: "PSG were better at our place, but we are not happy because we did well here and could have gotten more. One bad day in Champions makes it difficult and we had that in Mestalla."

Those days of finals are long gone. Valencia are now punching above their weight at this level and perhaps the last 16 is the best they can hope for. But with a little more invention and daring they could have gotten more at the Parc des Princes.

Valencia needed to score at least twice and had set their stall out from the start. Their first corner of thirteen came within 60 seconds and on three occasions in the early stages Jonas Goncalves, their best performer on the night, came within inches of making a breakthrough.

First the Brazilian was a yard away from turning a counter-attack into a one-on-one, then he nearly latched onto a Tino Costa chip into the area but instead forced a corner from which he scooped a half-chance over the bar.

When Roberto Soldado exchanged smart passes on the halfway line with him and raced clear on the quarter hour mark, the Spanish were clearly in the ascendancy and an early goal looked a possibility. Instead, he shot weakly; an early strike could have made it so different.

The Paris crowd remained largely silent as Sofiane Fegohouli found space on the right, Soldado led the line and Jonas buzzed around creating. It was only the impressive central defensive partnership of Alex and Thiago Silva that kept the game level at the break.

Ever Banega replaced Albelda at the interval and suddenly that little bit extra invention in the centre was available; Valencia looked more dangerous in more advanced positions.

It was not a surprise when Costa robbed Blaise Matuidi and the ball fell to Jonas who, in a similar vein to Luka Modric at Old Trafford on Tuesday night, found space before swinging an unstoppable right-footed shot goal-bound.

With 35 minutes remaining, a second goal would put Los Che through and the whole side was putting in a tremendous effort to win balls all over the pitch. On the night, the Spanish side ran five kilometres more than the home team who were content to play it cagey and sit back.

Valencia fullbacks Antonio Barragan and Ali Cissokho started to get into more advanced positions, but time after time the final ball was lacking.

The little Argentine Pablo Piatti, a spit for Messi in all but talent levels, was introduced for Banega to give a bit more zip down the right side but still no clear cut chance came.

And then Dani Parejo lost out to Kevin Gameiro who left Ezequiel Lavezzi with an easy finish. Vicente Guaita blocked the first effort but PSG were level with their first clear chance.

The PSG goal still did not dramatically change things. Valencia had always needed to score twice and they continued to press.

Piatti scurried around getting between defenders and causing trouble and Nelson Valdez replaced a shattered Jonas for a last throw of the dice but it was not enough.

The referee gave Los Che nothing and Alex was massive for PSG in the final minutes to keep Soldado quiet. The centre forward must be questioned for not influencing the game in the penalty area but he would be justified in pointing to a lack of service.

A Valencia corner in the last seconds of extra time ensured drama to the end and the French celebrations that exploded on the whistle can be understood as they are relatively new to these stages of the competition.

If they do go on to Wembley in May, the Parisian cosmopolitans will look back at the fright they received from arguably Spain's most in-debt club, and that is a tough league to top.

For Valencia, all that remains from the season is the fight for fourth position in La Liga and the chance to do it all again for the much needed TV millions that will help pay some bills.

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