Valencia’s 100th season couldn’t have ended better. Behind goals from Kevin Gameiro and Rodrigo Moreno, Los Che upset Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final 2-1 to claim the trophy for an eighth time.
With Barca the heavy favorites entering the game, Valencia scored twice in the first half to enter the break with the slim lead, but a goal from Lionel Messi in the second half brought Barca a step closer to the comeback. Valencia made defensive changes to try and hold on and managed to do just that, withstanding chance after chance. The title is Valencia’s first since the 2008 Copa del Rey. Barca, meanwhile, finishes the season with the La Liga title.
Here are three takeaways from the match:
Valencia’s plan worked to perfection
The gameplan was pretty simple for Valencia, and it’s been the same one when facing teams that dominate the ball. Sit back, defend in numbers, and quickly go on the counter. It’s those quick attacks with balls over the top that make this team dangerous, and the first one was just that. Gameiro did so well on the ball from Jose Luis Gaya to put the ball away with force.
On the second goal, Rodrigo finished off a pass from Carlos Soler with a header from close, which was the product of a counter on the right side. It’s exactly what Valencia wanted, and they played it to near perfection.
End of season trends continued
Barca had stumbled a bit down the stretch after losing in the Champions League quarterfinals, though they did win La Liga. But with some injuries and perhaps not the best play, Barca wasn’t entering this game with the most amount of momentum.
For Valencia, it was quite the opposite. Los Che were in the bottom half of the table for most of the season, but a hot second half to the campaign in La Liga saw Valencia finish in fourth place to qualify for the Champions League. The team had confidence, a belief and gave it all in the final, deservedly winning the coveted trophy.
Barca has one glaring hole
Everybody knows Barcelona has such a strong squad and the best player in the world in Lionel Messi. They also have signed some real players in Arthur and Malcolm who have a ton of potential, but if there is one glaring hole, it’s at striker. Luis Suarez missed this game due to injury, and there was nobody to step in for him. His physical play, quick finishing and ability to combine with Messi was evidently missing, and it cost the team. It’s time to invest in a backup striker that can give Suarez more chances to rest.
While Barca isn’t far from breaking the bank for a top-tier striker at some point soon, they need to find that guy who can relieve him. A few names I’d consider are Borja Iglesias (Espanyol) and Jamie Mata (Getafe). Neither are super starters for a club like Barca, but they can do enough in a reserve role in games like these.