Rodrigo Signs Four-Year Deal With Leeds For Club-Record Fee

 

Leeds announced on Saturday they had signed Spain international Rodrigo from Valencia for a club-record fee.

The forward has penned a four-year deal at Elland Road, reportedly costing the Premier League newcomers around £30 million ($40 million).

The 29-year-old said he was excited to join the club and was looking forward to working with Marcelo Bielsa, whom he described as one of the best coaches in football.

“It’s a new step in my career and I want to help the team to achieve the goals of the season,” he told the club’s Twitter account.

“Leeds have been working for two weeks on this deal with Valencia — we knew Valencia have some problems now as we didn’t achieve the Champions League.

“Since the first time Victor (Orta, director of football) talked to me I knew I wanted this new challenge with Leeds.”

READ ALSO: NBA Playoffs To Resume As Players Keep Focus On Racial Justice

Rodrigo, who can operate as a winger or striker, spent time at Celta Vigo and Real Madrid as a young player before moving to Benfica.

He joined Valencia in 2014, initially on loan, scoring 59 goals in 220 appearances.

He previously spent the 2010/11 season on loan at Bolton, then in the Premier League.

Rodrigo was born in Brazil but is a Spain international and has 22 caps and eight goals.

He scored 10 goals for club and country in 38 games last season, including the winner in Valencia’s 1-0 Champions League win at Chelsea in September.

Valencia said on Tuesday they had reached a preliminary agreement with Leeds for the transfer but the formalities had to be completed.

Leeds finished 10 points at the top of the Championship last season, securing their return to the top flight for the first time since 2004.

AFP

Ex-Arsenal Midfielder Coquelin Leaves Valencia For Villareal

File photo of former Arsenal star, Francis Coquelin. Photo: Twitter @Valencia CF.

 

Former Arsenal midfielder Francis Coquelin has joined Villarreal from Valencia on a four-year deal, both Spanish clubs announced on Wednesday.

Local media reported the deal for the 29-year-old, who left the Premier League side in 2018 after a decade-long spell, is worth eight million euros ($9.42 million).

Villarreal will feature in next season’s Europa League under the guidance of former Sevilla and Paris Saint-Germain coach Unai Emery.

Coquelin was part of the Valencia team that finished ninth in La Liga after a miserable season for the club, during which supporters grew increasingly disillusioned with the ownership of Singaporean businessman Peter Lim.

AFP

Man City Sign Valencia Winger, Torres

In this file photo taken on November 30, 2019 Valencia's Spanish midfielder Ferran Torres celebrates after scoring during the Spanish league football match between Valencia CF and Villarreal CF at the Mestalla stadium in Valencia. JOSE JORDAN / AFP
In this file photo taken on November 30, 2019 Valencia’s Spanish midfielder Ferran Torres celebrates after scoring during the Spanish league football match between Valencia CF and Villarreal CF at the Mestalla stadium in Valencia. JOSE JORDAN / AFP

 

Manchester City announced the signing of Valencia winger Ferran Torres on a five-year deal on Tuesday.

The 20-year-old has signed a five-year contract, for a reported initial fee of £20.9 million ($27 million).

“I am so happy to be joining City,” Torres said in a statement released by the Premier League club. “Every player wants to be involved in attacking teams and Manchester City are one of the most attacking in world football.”

Guardiola is keen to strengthen his squad following the loss of their Premier League title to Liverpool — they have also agreed a £41 million fee for Bournemouth defender Nathan Ake.

“We have followed Ferran’s progress closely and have been very impressed,” said director of football Txiki Begiristain.

 

AFP

Valencia Plan Champions League Comeback Against  Atalanta In Empty Stadium

(FromL) Valencia’s Portuguese defender Thierry Correia, Valencia’s French midfielder Francis Coquelin, Valencia’s Portuguese midfielder Gongalo Guedes and Valencia’s Spanish midfielder Ferran Torres arrive for a training session at the Paterna Sports City in Paterna on March 09, 2020 on the eve of the UEFA Champions League Group H football match between Valencia and Atalanta which will be played behind closed doors in light of the coronavirus outbreak.
JOSE JORDAN / AFP

 

Valencia will attempt an unlikely comeback without their fans on Tuesday when they play Atalanta in the Champions League behind closed doors due to the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Retrieving a 4-1 defeat from the first leg in Italy was always going to be a formidable task for Valencia but looks even more so after UEFA instructed their home tie at Mestalla be played in an empty stadium to limit the spread in Spain.

Atalanta are based in Bergamo in the Lombardy region of northern Italy, one of the worst-hit areas in the country. Italy had registered more than 7,000 cases of coronavirus on Monday.

Spain has been less affected so far, with just under 1,000 confirmed cases on Monday and 37 in the Valencian Community, which includes Castellon, Valencia and Alicante.

Valencia announced on February 28 they would be suspending all non-sporting activity with the club’s first-team players after a journalist attending the opening fixture against Atalanta on February 19 was confirmed to have been infected.

READ ALSO: Bergwijn Adds To Tottenham’s Injury Woes

It meant all engagement with the media before and after subsequent matches against Real Betis on February 29 and Alaves on Friday was cancelled, while a tribute to the club’s former player David Villa was also called off.

But the last-16 meeting with Atalanta will be Valencia’s first to be contested behind closed doors and, in theory, puts them at a significant disadvantage in their bid to reach the Champions League’s quarter-finals.

Indignant

Valencia captain Dani Parejo expressed anger last week at what he perceives as inconsistency in the approach of the authorities to football matches.

“I am the first to be concerned about the crisis and that is why I am also first to feel indignant when I see the measures taken are not consistent,” Parejo said.

“I don’t understand how a global crisis can be managed in Spain depending on the region in which you live.”

Parejo added: “If it’s dangerous for people to attend Mestalla, it’s also dangerous at the Parc des Princes, at Anfield, at the Red Bull Arena, at the Etihad [Stadium], at Camp Nou, at the Allianz [Stadium] in Turin and at the Allianz [Arena] in Munich.”

Despite heavy restrictions on travel in and out of northern Italy, Atalanta were able to fly to Spain on Monday morning although media events usually scheduled for the day before a Champions League fixture were cancelled.

Atalanta have played only once since their thumping first-leg victory over Valencia, a 7-2 win on March 1 away at Lecce, who are based in southern Italy. Atalanta fans attending the game underwent medical checks before entering the ground.

Only five Serie A matches were staged on Sunday, with all of the games played in front of empty stands.

Italian sports minister Vincenzo Spadafora has insisted matches should be suspended completely and accused Serie A of being “irresponsible” for allowing some to go ahead.

AFP

Four-Goal Atalanta Near Champions League Quarter-Final After Victory Against Valencia

Atalanta’s Italian goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini (L) and teammates acknowledge the public at the end of the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg football match Atalanta Bergamo vs Valencia on February 19, 2020 at the San Siro stadium in Milan. Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

 

Atalanta defeated Valencia 4-1 on Wednesday to take a giant step closer to reaching the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time.

Hans Hateboer scored twice after 16 and 62 minutes, sandwiching further goals from Josep Ilicic (42) and Remo Freuler (57).

READ ALSO: RB Leipzig Beat Tottenham In Champions League Last 16 First Leg

Denis Cheryshev pulled one back for Valencia in the first leg of the last 16 tie at the San Siro, the same stadium where the Spanish side lost the 2001 Champions League final.

AFP

Setien Suffers First Defeat As Valencia Shock Barcelona

Barcelona’s Argentine forward Lionel Messi gestures during the Spanish league football match Valencia CF against FC Barcelona at the Mestalla stadium in Valencia on January 25, 2020.  AFP

 

Quique Setien’s honeymoon period lasted less than a fortnight as he tasted his first Barcelona defeat on Saturday in his second La Liga game in charge after a 2-0 loss to Valencia.

A Jordi Alba own goal and Maxi Gomez’s strike at Mestalla raise early doubts about Setien’s appointment and give Real Madrid the chance to move three points clear at the top of the table when they visit Real Valladolid on Sunday.

Barcelona had most of the ball but their opponents had the best chances as Gomez missed a penalty and also hit the crossbar in the first half. Gabriel Paulista saw a third goal ruled out late on.

While performances under previous coach Ernesto Valverde were stodgy and familiar failings went unresolved, he left a side in first place.

Setien promised a new style but few will cheer a team that loses. Despite dominating possession, Barcelona did little with it and as Valencia grew in confidence, they ceded control too.

“There are things they have not understood or maybe we have not have explained ourselves well,” Setien said afterwards. “In the first half, quite frankly, we were bad.”

The question is whether Setien is trying to impose too much too soon and perhaps whether this group are even well-suited his ideas.

“The players have to adapt to the coaching staff to understand,” said Sergio Busquets. “There were some good things but we have to improve.”

Valencia climb to fifth and continue to improve under Albert Celades. This success came without their captain Dani Parejo and, largely, without star striker Rodrigo Moreno, who has been linked with a January move to Barcelona.

The hosts hardly touched the ball for the first six minutes, their fans whistling as they urged a more aggressive approach.

But the plan was to sit and absorb and it worked, with Barcelona unable to cut through or create a single clear chance.

 Valencia dangerous 

And when Valencia did intervene, they were more dangerous too. With their first attack, they won a penalty as Jose Gaya slipped past Gerard Pique and would surely have scored from eight yards before being brought down.

Pique was booked and, with Parejo absent, Gomez stepped up, only for his driven shot to be well saved by Marc-Andre ter Stegen, albeit with the help of half a yard’s headstart off his line.

Barca were riding their luck. Sergi Roberto’s header cannoned off Pique but fell just close enough for Ter Stegen, who parried a Gomez shot onto the crossbar and almost spilled another to Kevin Gameiro.

Referee Gil Manzano puts his hands together as if to apologise after failing to play advantage when Ferran Torres was clear but the frustration of Valencia’s fans turned to ecstasy shortly after half-time.

Pique’s flicked header landed at the feet of Gomez, whose driven effort took a cruel deflection off Alba and flew in.

Setien traded the patience of Arthur Melo for the physicality of Arturo Vidal and Rodrigo came on to a rousing reception.

Barcelona exerted some pressure and Lionel Messi led the way, hauled to the ground by Francis Coquelin and then denied by a brilliant Gabriel tackle. He fired past the post, headed wide and saw a curling free-kick saved.

Yet just as a Barcelona equaliser began to feel inevitable, Valencia struck again. A quick throw caught Alba out of position and Torres did well to cut inside and switch to Gomez. He took a touch and curled into the corner.

Gabriel thought he had a third after volleying in from a corner but VAR persuaded Manzano there had been a push. When Messi ballooned a late free-kick and threw his arms up in despair, Valencia knew their win was secure.

AFP

Kenya’s Kipruto Breaks 10km World Record In Valencia

Kenya’s Rhonex Kipruto celebrates finishing third in the Men’s 10,000m final at the 2019 IAAF Athletics World Championships at the Khalifa International stadium in Doha on October 6, 2019.
ANDREJ ISAKOVIC / AFP

 

Kenya’s Rhonex Kipruto set a new 10km road world record of 26 minutes 24 seconds in Valencia on Sunday. 

Kipruto bettered the previous fastest time set by Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei, also in Valencia last month, by 14 seconds.

Both times are pending official ratification.

The astonishing run by Kipruto also included him breaking the 5km road world record after he crossed the halfway point of the 10km race in 13:18.

Kipruto came close to breaking the 10km world record when he registered 26:44 in Prague in September 2018.

The 20-year-old won a bronze medal at the World Championships in Qatar last year.

His compatriot Bernard Kimeli came second in Valencia, finishing less than a minute behind in 27:12. Switzerland’s Julien Wanders was third with a time of 27:13.

AFP

Kroos Stunner Helps Real Madrid Through To Spanish Super Cup Final

Real Madrid’s Spanish midfielder Isco (R) scores past Valencia’s Spanish goalkeeper Jaume Domenech (L) during the Spanish Super Cup semi final between Valencia and Real Madrid on January 8, 2020, at the King Abdullah Sport City in the Saudi Arabian port city of Jeddah. AFP

 

Toni Kroos scored a wonder goal straight from a corner as Real Madrid beat Valencia 3-1 on Wednesday to reach the final of the controversial Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia. 

Kroos caught Valencia goalkeeper Jaume Domenech napping with a brilliant, instinctive strike before Isco made it two and Luka Modric added a classy third from a curling finish with the outside of his foot.

After two superb goals, the only shame was more fans were not there to see them given the King Abdullah Sports City stadium appeared only a little more than half full.

Dani Parejo scored a late Valencia penalty but Madrid advance to Sunday’s final where they will meet the winner of the second semi-final between Barcelona and Atletico Madrid on Thursday.

Barca coach Ernesto Valverde had said earlier on Wednesday that he preferred the traditional format of this competition, that pitted the La Liga champions against the winners of the Copa del Rey in a match in Spain in August.

Under those rules, Real Madrid, who finished third in the league last term and failed to reach the final of the cup would not even have qualified but they now have the chance to win their first trophy of the season, possibly against Barca in a Clasico final.

But it is the new location that has grated most, because of the lack of consideration for Spanish fans and the implications of associating with a country that has been heavily criticised for its treatment of women and record over human rights.

In one of the more unusual aspects of the night, a giant banner of the King and Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia were hung in the centre of the pitch during half-time.

 Long unbeaten run 

Either side of the interval, Real Madrid were too strong, extending their unbeaten run to 15 matches with another performance to suggest they are La Liga’s form team ahead of the second half of the season.

For long spells, they outplayed Valencia, who have been on a strong run themselves, even if they had to cope without star player Rodrigo Moreno due to a knee injury.

Madrid were also without their own top scorer in Karim Benzema, who has a hamstring strain, as well as Gareth Bale, who has a throat infection.

In their absence, Kroos stepped up with a goal of which both Benzema and Bale would have been proud.

Madrid won the corner in the 15th minute and with Domenech out of his goal, instructing Francis Coquelin, Kroos nipped around the flag and bent the ball towards the net.

Domenech saw it coming but too late, and he could only succeed in punching the ball into the inside of his own side-netting.

Valencia wanted a penalty when Casemiro nudged Carlos Soler in the back and Kevin Gameiro should have done better than blast over after he did well to wriggle through.

But Madrid were the dominant force and Isco doubled the lead before the break. Fede Valverde pulled back for Modric and while his shot was blocked, Isco fired in the follow-up.

Luka Jovic’s struggles continued as he struck the post from close range before Modric added a final flourish, selling Gabriel Paulista with a stepover left before guiding the ball into the far corner with the ouside of his right foot.

Sergio Ramos handballed late on and Parejo scored the penalty but for Valencia the game was already up.

AFP

Ajax’s Fairytale Champions League Run End After Valencia Defeat

Ajax’ Cameroonian goalkeeper Andre Onana (3rdR) and teammates react after valencia scored the opener during the UEFA Champions League group H football match between Ajax Amsterdam and Valencia CF at the Johan Cruijff Arena in Amsterdam, The Netherlands on December 10, 2019.
Maurice van STEEN / ANP / AFP

 

Ajax’s hopes of another fairytale run in the Champions League were dashed on Tuesday as a 1-0 defeat at home to Valencia sent them crashing out and the Spaniards through to the last 16. 

Rodrigo Moreno’s 24th-minute strike proved the winner at the Johan Cruyff Arena and enough to flip the top three in Group H, with Valencia advancing in first place along with Chelsea, who beat bottom club Lille 2-1.

Ajax were arguably the story of the competition last season when their youthful team went all the way to the semi-finals but there will be no repeat this year.

Gabriel Paulista was sent off in injury-time but even against 10 men, they could not find the equaliser they needed.

READ ALSO: Chelsea Edge Past Lille, Qualify For Champions League Last 16

Instead, Valencia not only progress but have earned themselves the best chance of a kind draw when the knock-out stage is decided in Nyon on December 16.

It seemed unlikely after they missed a series of golden opportunities to beat Chelsea earlier this month but a 2-2 draw still left them with a chance, even if the odds were not in their favour.

They knew they either had to beat Ajax, against whom they had lost 3-0 at home in October, or at least match the result of Chelsea, who always seemed likely to win against Lille at Stamford Bridge.

Ajax, meanwhile, began the night two points clear at the top of the group and needed only a draw to go through.

Valencia coach Albert Celades, who made his La Liga debut as a player under Cruyff, was now in the dugout of the stadium named after the iconic Dutchman and this will be a major boost for his side, who are eighth in La Liga after a rocky start to the season on and off the pitch.

Ajax sit three points clear at the top of the Eredivisie but last year’s heroics in the Champions League, and their heartbreaking defeat to Tottenham, meant they had European ambitions too.

Rodrigo headed wide from a corner early on but after a frantic start, the game settled, with Ajax dominating possession and Valencia trying to counter-attack.

Against the run of play, Valencia took the lead as Rodrigo’s bending run in behind was picked out by a Ferran Torres pass. Rodrigo controlled with his left and fired the ball with his right into the roof of the net.

Ajax had to wait until the end of the half for their best chance as Donny van de Beek latched onto Hakim Ziyech’s pass and lifted the ball over Jaume Domenech, only for Jose Gaya to make a brilliant clearance off the line.

Rodrigo might have made it two at the other end but it was Ajax that were pushing for an equaliser after the restart as Valencia retreated.

Ziyech should have levelled but fluffed his finish at the near post before 20-year-old Noa Lang hooked over from inside the box.

Lille pulled a goal back away at Chelsea to give Ajax further hope and they were almost gifted an equaliser by Valencia’s Daniel Wass, who chesting the ball away from his own goalkeeper.

Ziyech went close with a shot towards the near post and, three minutes into injury-time, Gabriel was sent off for thrusting his head into Dusan Tadic.

It left Valencia to defend two minutes, and a corner, with 10 men but Ajax could not find a way through.

AFP

Valencia Delay Chelsea’s Last 16 Spot After Thrilling Draw

Chelsea’s Belgian striker Michy Batshuayi (C) vies with Valencia’s Spanish defender Jose Luis Gaya Pena (L) and Valencia’s Brazilian defender Gabriel Paulista (R) during the UEFA Champions League Group H football match between Valencia CF and Chelsea FC at the Mestalla stadium in Valencia on November 27, 2019.
JOSE JORDAN / AFP

 

Daniel Wass’s late equaliser denied Chelsea a place in the last 16 of the Champions League as a profligate Valencia fought back for a 2-2 draw that maintains both sides’ chances of reaching the knockout stages.

A wide-open game swung the visitors’ way after Carles Soler’s opener for Valencia as Mateo Kovacic and Christian Pulisic put Chelsea in pole position to avenge their 1-0 defeat on home soil to the Spaniards on matchday one.

However, after Kepa Arrizabalaga had saved Dani Parejo’s penalty, Wass’s cross flummoxed the Spanish international to give Valencia a lifeline.

READ ALSO: Ibrahimovic Becomes Co-Owner Of Swedish Club Hammarby

Both sides are tied on eight points at the top of Group H but could be overtaken by Ajax who travel to Lille later on Wednesday.

Victory at home to Lille in two weeks’ time will ensure Frank Lampard’s men make the last 16 and they were thankful for five huge misses from the hosts to escape with a point on a night that could also prove costly as top-scorer Tammy Abraham was stretchered off at half-time.

Maxi Gomez was the principal villain for Valencia as the Uruguayan twice failed to find the net with the goal at his mercy in the first half.

When Valencia did finally break the deadlock there was a hint of fortune in the finish as the ball ricocheted off Soler’s legs, but had enough power to beat Kepa.

Defeat would have left Lampard’s men on the brink of elimination, but they responded immediately after falling behind as Kovacic produced his first goal for the club at the perfect time with a fine low strike.

The Croatian should have had a second moments later after brilliant work by Pulisic but pulled his shot too close to Jasper Cillessen’s near post and the Dutch ‘keeper saved.

Abraham was then left wincing in pain and holding his left hip as he was trampled on inside the area and eventually had to be stretchered down the tunnel after both sides had already made their way to the dressing room at half-time.

Despite the loss of their key marksman, Chelsea took the lead five minutes into the second period when Pulisic kept up his fine scoring form by prodding home Kurt Zouma’s knockdown.

Following a lengthy VAR check for offside, the goal was given, but Valencia were furious there was not a check for a potential foul by Zouma in the build-up.

The hosts still only had themselves to blame for not getting all three points as Rodrigo chipped over with the goal gaping after Kepa scampered from his goal to clear and was caught in no man’s land.

Kepa made amends 25 minutes from time with a brilliant save from Parejo’s penalty after Jorginho was harshly penalised for a foul on Jose Luis Gaya.

The drama did not end there, though, as Wass’s overhit cross smashed off the far post and into the Chelsea net eight minutes from time.

And Valencia should have gone onto win it as in seven minutes of stoppage time Rodrigo curled wide before somehow prodding wide from Gaya’s cross with the whole goal to aim at.

AFP

Messi, Suarez, Griezmann All On Target As Barca Move Top Of La Liga

Barcelona’s Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez (L) celebrates after scoring during their match against SD Eibar at the Ipurua stadium in Eibar on October 19, 2019. STRINGER / AFP

 

Barcelona’s ‘MSG’ strike force is finally clicked into gear as Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann all scored in a ruthless 3-0 victory over Eibar on Saturday.

Griezmann’s place in the newly-formed attacking trident has not been secure but the Frenchman opened the scoring at Ipurua before teeing up Messi and then playing the crucial pass for Suarez to make it three.

“There will be good and bad days but we are getting to know each other and bit by bit we will do even better,” said Griezmann.

An authoritative Barca display thrust them to the top of La Liga, for a few hours at least before Real Madrid play Real Mallorca. They moved three points clear of Atletico, who drew 1-1 at home to Valencia.

The victory also dismissed suggestions their players might be affected by Friday’s postponement of next Saturday’s Clasico due to protests in Catalonia.

Violence in Barcelona and disruptions at El Prat airport meant Ernesto Valverde’s side altered their pre-match routine and embarked on a 589-kilometre bus trip to the Basque County on Friday.

All the while, discussions continued over the Clasico against Real Madrid, which is now expected to go ahead in December.

“It is fashionable not to agree on political issues but at least let’s agree on the date of the Clasico,” Valverde said afterwards. “It doesn’t seem to me that difficult.”

Perhaps chaos off the pitch inspired Barca to unite on it.

This was their fifth consecutive victory in all competitions, a sequence which is swiftly erasing memories of a stumbling start to the season.

The resurgence has coincided with Messi’s return from injury yet it was the fluidity and cohesion of the front three, rather than the Argentinian’s familiar solo brilliance, that will have been most pleasing for Valverde.

“Great players always understand each other,” Valverde said. “With time and matches they will understand each other even more.”

Four for Griezmann

Griezmann has four goals since joining Barca from Atletico Madrid last summer but a series of underwhelming showings led to Ousmane Dembele starting against Sevilla before the international break.

There was good news too for Barcelona in defence, where Samuel Umtiti came through 90 minutes in what was his first appearance of the season. Umtiti, who has been out with a foot injury, replaced the banned Gerard Pique.

The only blot on the result was an injury to Sergi Roberto, who hurt his left knee and was replaced at half-time. He will be a doubt for the Champions League game away at Slavia Prague on Wednesday.

The visiting fans chanted in support of the nine Catalan leaders imprisoned last week for a failed independence bid in 2017.

Griezmann’s finish clipped the inside of the post and found the net after 13 minutes.

Messi should have made it two before half-time but was denied one-on-one by goalkeeper Marko Dmitrovic. Suarez’s effort was ruled out for offside.

Barca made it two just before the hour as Frenkie de Jong’s incisive ball was collected by Suarez. As he lost control, Griezmann took over, flicking left to Messi, who made no mistake.

The third involved all three again. Griezmann’s superb reverse pass set Messi clear and he generously slipped the ball left for Suarez who was left with an open goal.

Atletico lost ground as they were undone by a late Dani Parejo free-kick against Valencia at the Wanda Metropolitano, where both sides finished the game with 10 men.

Diego Costa scored a first-half penalty and in a frantic final 10 minutes, Joao Felix limped off with all three of Diego Simeone’s substitutes already used.

Parejo struck in the 82nd minute and Valencia’s Lee Kang-In was sent off in injury-time.

Atletico confirmed Felix suffered a “bad twist” in his right ankle. His fitness will be a concern for Simeone ahead of Atletico’s Champions League game at home to Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday.

“At first it didn’t look like much but the doctors think it could be serious,” said Simeone.

AFP

Champions League: Chelsea Lose To Valencia At Stamford Bridge

Ezequiel Garay (L) vies with Pedro during the UEFA Champion’s League Group H football match between Chelsea and Valencia at Stamford Bridge in London on September 17, 2019. Ian KINGTON / AFP

 

 

Valencia put a week of turmoil behind them to beat Chelsea 1-0 at Stamford Bridge in Frank Lampard’s first Champions League game in charge of the Blues on Tuesday.

Chelsea dominated possession, but were toothless in attack after losing promising midfielder Mason Mount to an early injury and were punished 16 minutes from time when Rodrigo grabbed all three points for the Spaniards.

Lampard’s men should still have rescued a point, but Ross Barkley fired a late penalty over the bar.

Valencia had arrived in London still reeling from the unpopular sacking of coach Marcelino last week, who had led the club to two top-four finishes in La Liga and the Copa del Rey last season in his two seasons in charge.

Los Che were also thrashed 5-2 by Barcelona in Albert Celades’s first game in charge on Saturday, but bounced back with a solid if unspectacular performance that was still good enough to beat a Chelsea side that badly missed the imagination of the departed Eden Hazard.

Lampard has had a rocky start on his return to Stamford Bridge, but enjoyed his best result of his short time in charge with a 5-2 win at Wolves at the weekend.

Tammy Abraham scored a hat-trick in that match to take his tally to seven goals in his last three Premier League games and threatened to carry that form into his first Champions League appearance early on.

Abraham was denied by Jasper Cillessen as he tried to force home Cesar Azpilicueta’s dangerous near-post cross inside the first 10 minutes, but Chelsea’s early momentum was soon halted by an injury blow to the other young star of their season so far.

– Coquelin lucky –

Francis Coquelin was lucky to escape with just a yellow card for a dangerous lunge on Mount, that forced the England international off with an ankle injury.

Without the creative quality of Mount, the hosts were reliant on moments of magic from Willian to open up an organised if unambitious Valencia.

The Brazilian just lacked the finish after chesting down Mateo Kovacic’s fine pass over the top of the Valencia defence as he blazed well over.

Former Barca ‘keeper Cillessen had been heavily criticised for his performance upon his return to the Camp Nou on Saturday, but came to his side’s rescue again in first-half stoppage time when this time a fierce volleyed effort from Willian found the target.

Despite Chelsea’s obvious defensive weaknesses in conceding 11 times in their opening five Premier League games of the season, Valencia were happy to contain and counter-attack.

But the visitors made their mark from set-pieces.

Firstly, Kevin Gameiro fired over from a well-worked corner when picked out by Dani Parejo.

However, Rodrigo made no such mistake after another pinpoint delivery from a Parejo free-kick as his shot into the ground bounced up and beyond Kepa Arrizabalaga.

The goal arrived just seconds after Lampard had introduced a second striker in Olivier Giroud as he chased all three points.

Giroud fired too close to Cillessen moments later as Chelsea went in search of an equaliser.

And they were given a golden opportunity when Daniel Wass was harshly penalised for a handball after a lengthy delay for referee Cuneyt Cakir to consult replays four minutes from time.

However, no damage was done to Valencia as Barkley’s penalty hit the bar on its way over to condemn Chelsea to the worst possible start in Group H.

AFP