Barcelona beaten by Valencia in early blow for Setien

Barcelona beaten by Valencia  in early blow for Setien
Barcelona’s Lionel Messi in action against Valencia’s Francis Coquelin during their La Liga match in Valencia on Saturday. (Reuters)
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Updated 26 January 2020

Barcelona beaten by Valencia in early blow for Setien

Barcelona beaten by Valencia  in early blow for Setien
  • Uruguayan striker Maxi Gomez misses a penalty, hits the crossbar in the first half

VALENCIA: 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.

Maxi Gomez’s strike and a Jordi Alba own goal at Mestalla handed Barca their fourth league defeat of the campaign, giving Real Madrid the chance to move three points clear of the champions 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, he left a team that sat top of the table.
Setien promised a new style but despite dominating possession, Barcelona went nowhere with it and as Valencia grew in confidence, they ceded control.
“It should not take us long,” Setien had said on Friday, when asked how quickly his players could adapt to his methods.
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.
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 put his hands together as if to apologize 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 equalizer 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 into the stands, Valencia knew their win was secure.


Klopp delighted by one of his ‘biggest nights’ as youngsters see Liverpool through

Updated 03 December 2020

Klopp delighted by one of his ‘biggest nights’ as youngsters see Liverpool through

Klopp delighted by one of his ‘biggest nights’ as youngsters see Liverpool through
  • There are not a lot of reasons to smile because of the injuries it’s tricky. Then the boys throw themselves into that game, says Klopp

LIVERPOOL: Jurgen Klopp hailed a depleted Liverpool’s 1-0 win over Ajax to reach the last 16 as one of his greatest Champions League nights given the circumstances of a lengthy injury list.

The Reds’ youngsters took their chance to shine as 19-year-old Curtis Jones scored the only goal, while Caoimhin Kelleher kept a clean sheet against the Dutch giants on his European debut.

Victory also ensures Klopp’s men win Group D with a game to spare, allowing the German to give some of his stars a much-needed rest away to Midtjylland next week.

“Honestly, since I am (at) Liverpool, for how it feels, one of the biggest Champions League nights,” said Klopp, who has guided Liverpool to two finals and won the competition in 2019.

“Without supporters in, it was the most important, the most difficult and the most exceptional game.”

Kelleher had to deputize for Alisson Becker, who added to Klopp’s long injury list before kickoff, while Andrew Robertson needed heavy strapping applied to his ankle in the first half.

Liverpool were already without Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Naby Keita, Xherdan Shaqiri, Trent Alexander-Arnold and James Milner through injury.

“There are not a lot of reasons to smile because of the injuries it’s tricky. Then the boys throw themselves into that game,” added Klopp.

“How the kids played. Robbo with a proper knock on the ankle pushing himself through, Hendo (Jordan Henderson) with a proper knock on the back, pushing himself through. Gini (Wijnaldum) I have no words for him, Curtis Jones what a game for a 19-year-old boy. I’m really proud tonight.”

Jones has been one of the beneficiaries of those absentees with many more first-team minutes this season and came closest to breaking the deadlock before halftime when his curling effort came back off the post after just six minutes.

The midfielder was then alive to score the winner just before the hour mark when a lofted cross from Neco Williams appeared easy pickings for Ajax ‘keeper Andre Onana, but he instead tried to let the ball go behind for a goal kick and was caught out when Jones sneaked in at the back post to turn the ball into an unguarded net.

“That’s how it is sometimes, in situations where there are problems there is always an opportunity for someone else and he took it just exceptionally well,” added Klopp.

Ajax had been unbeaten in eight games since losing to at home to Liverpool in October, but they could not find a way past the inspired Kelleher.

All of the young Irishman’s previous appearances had come in domestic cup competitions and he was made to work for his clean sheet on the big stage as he flew to his left to turn Noussair Mazraoui’s long-range effort behind.

Mazraoui was denied again by Kelleher early in the second half, but David Neres should have swept home the rebound when he hit the outside of the post.

Ajax now must beat Atalanta in Amsterdam next week to make the last 16 and they were left to regret what might have been but for one moment of madness from Onana.

The Spaniard made amends with a great save to turn Roberto Firmino’s effort onto the post to keep Ajax in the game after Liverpool’s best move of the match involving Henderson and Salah.

But Kelleher produced an even better stop two minutes from time to parry Klaas-Jan Huntelaar’s powerful header from point-blank range to see Liverpool over the line.

A delighted Klopp ran onto the field to embrace his goalkeeper after the full-time whistle and will hope his squad is in better health for another deep run in the knockout stages come the new year.

“You never know how a boy will react,” said Klopp. “I’m really happy with how calm he was, with how good he was.”