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Alfredo Matilla | 20/11/2012
A draw was enough for both Valencia and Bayern to progress to the knock out stages of the Champions given Lille's earlier win, so some might suspect the result was a stitch up. Nothing could be further from the truth. This Valencia team aren't settling for just qualifying. They wanted, and still want, to finish first, and they made that fact plain to their rivals from the first minute, and even more so when they went down to 10 men. It was only in the first half hour that they felt out of their depth, due to a lack of presence in the creation zone. But after Berragán's sending off in the 33 minute they fell back on their thoroughbred status, and in the end deserved a victory, that nearly arrived through Feghouli's shot and which Müller just avoided at the death. The last match will decide who tops the group, and who is to be most feared.
Bayern enjoyed their superiority at the start of the match, and put Valencia under the cosh thanks to the force and nerve of their midfielders. Ribery was all over Barragán every chance he got, and Kross and Müller sought out defects in Rami and Ricardo Costa. That said, Heynckes team only came close from a headed corner from Dante and a decent effort from Pizarro. The visitors were lacking bite and precision with their final ball.
Up to this point Valencia were being held together by two men. Guaita from time to time and Banega constantly. The Argentinean was a surprise in the starting line up, given how little he has played, and showed, with his boldness and his tireless running, that he is up to the job. With Baneja the team improved and building around him Tino Costa could finally show signs of life. He even appeared to be shouting demands to change positions with Banega, closer to Soldado. The ex Madrid player oozes talent but lacks gas. Only Feghouli tested Neuer. However, football being what it is, everything changed with the ridiculous sending off of Barragán in the 33 minute. Given his chance he failed the exam. First he picked up a yellow for going in on Ribery and then he sent Alaba 6 feet in the air with a crazy challenge that saw him handed a direct red card.
Valencia had to pull themselves back together, and instead of falling to pieces they actually improved. It did their morale wonders to find themselves heroically facing an ogre from a position of inferiority. Bayern seemed to think the goals would start to rain down for them, without doing anything to deserve them. Naive. Bayern played about near the opposition box, but when they lost the ball some wandered back slowly, whilst others forgot to go back entirely. Javi Martínez, obsessed with balancing his team, ended up out of position. With more space Feghouli and Soldado could sow fear. The break arrived just in time for the team that should have needed it less.
The restart brought even better news though for Valencia, as they returned to the fray with the same attitude. Bayern were knocked sideways, they had a player more but were lacking a central point in their interplay. Valencia had a clear plan: solidarity in defence and lightening quick counters. Cúper couldn't have imagined it better. Soldado had the best chance of the night but couldn't convert. Tino Costa put him through and the striker, with everything in his favour in the one on one, shot with more passion than precision. Neuer breathed easy. Bayern had been warned and woke up. They went snarling after the win, and Müller first then Javi Martínez let their hair down. Madzukic silenced the Mestalla with a header of the post.
Valencia could have given up, but they reinvented themselves. Pellegrino got his substitutions right, and a burst from Feghouli brought their reward. The winger stole the ball near the opposition box and set off on a daring run, beating a couple of defenders before firing goalwards. Luck was on his side. The ball hit Dante's hand and would have led to a penalty had the ball not ended up in the back of the net. Bayern then got angry; not only was their top spot in the group in danger, so was their credibility as potential trophy winners. Mario Gómez came on for Ribery to play with two up front and then a cross and shot from Müller, amongst a thousand legs, led to the Bayern goal. An unfair draw in the end but one that didn't take anything away from Valencia: they had already shown what they were made of.
IMAGEN: Valencia go flying through
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