We were treated to a great game at Mestalla last night, it was a fitting tribute to former president, the late Jaume Ortí, with whom Valencia lived through such happy times – ones which they would love to experience again. Even though they are now in foreign hands, the club paid a warm tribute to remember a man who left us too early, and whose presence was felt last night as Valencia left a vacant seat in the president’s box in his honour. There were other nods to Ortí before kick-off - such as his famous Palmito de Aldaya – a huge decorative fan which was paraded out on the pitch while fans were asked to turn up wearing curly, ginger wigs - like the one the ex-president wore when Valencia celebrated winning the league in 2004. When Rodrigo tucked in the opener, he paid his own tribute to Ortí by pulling on a ginger wig and pointing to the heavens. It was a night which lived up to the occasion as we remembered a truly great president.
Match officials unsighted for Messi goal
Barça came out of the game relatively favourably – they’re four points clear of Valencia and eight ahead of the two Madrid teams. Their lead is less than it was this time yesterday, but it’s still a sizeable advantage. They laid siege on the locals’ goal in the first half, snuffing Valencia out of the game, but they couldn’t find a way through the hosts’ resolute rearguard and resorted to trying their luck with shots from outside of the area. One of them, from Messi, bobbed over the line after Neto fumbled; the keeper then tried to make amends by scooping the ball back into play. The ref’s view of it was blocked, while the linesman was caught level with the edge of the penalty area. So you can understand that they didn’t see it but incidents like this only make a stronger case for implementing goal-line technology which is already being used in the Champions League and in other countries. It was a clanger of the first order.
And so after that, both teams went in at half-time with the score at 0-0. When play resumed, Valencia stepped up a gear, the siege was suddenly lifted and they started running more and playing well. To the delight of their fans, they took the lead and went in search of another goal. This Valencia is a force to be reckoned with. But then Barça have Messi who, with the final minutes ticking down, whipped over a sumptuous, lofted ball for Jordi Alba who rifled home on the volley. There wasn’t a great deal of time left but neither side gave in. It made for a frenzied final few minutes, with end-to-end football with spectators on the edge of their seats. In the end, perhaps a draw was a satisfactory outcome but both teams were probably left thinking ‘if only’...