Sport Soccer

Tuesday 20 February 2018

Gary Neville's Primera Liga winless run has now stretched to EIGHT matches

Gary Neville
Gary Neville

Gary Neville's winless Primera Division run as Valencia coach stretched to eight games on Sunday as his side were beaten 1-0 by relegation-threatened Sporting Gijon.

The hosts were the dominant side for most of the game but failed to take a string of chances and fell behind to Antonio Sanabria's penalty on 50 minutes.

They continued to throw everything at their opponents but Alvaro Negredo missed two clear chances to equalise and Los Che suffered a third league defeat under Neville - their first home loss in La Liga since 2014.

Neville's side stayed 12th in the standings, now 19 points from fourth place, while Sporting moved two points away from the relegation zone

The Asturians last weekend brought an emphatic end to a five-game losing streak in the league by thumping Real Sociedad 5-1 thanks to a hat-trick by Sanabria, while Valencia averted defeat at Deportivo La Coruna courtesy of a stoppage-time equaliser by Negredo and reached the Copa del Rey semi-finals with a 1-0 midweek win at Las Palmas.

Neville was able to give Sofiane Feghouli a first start in over two months after the Algeria international made his comeback from injury as a substitute against Las Palmas, but newly appointed captain Paco Alcacer was still injured, so Negredo led the line and wore the armband.

Neville and Sporting coach Aberlardo Fernandez were on opposite sides when England beat Spain on penalties in the quarter finals of Euro 1996, and the Englishman certainly got the better of the Spaniard in the first half.

Pablo Piatti headed over inside two minutes, Negredo had a penalty appeal turned down, Piatti had a shot fisted away by Ivan Cuellar and Feghouli curled over all in a dominant opening half-hour for the hosts.

The clearest chance, though, fell to Negredo, who sped towards goal inside the box but lost his footing as he shaped to shoot, and Cuellar saved. Neither Feghouli nor Piatti could make anything of the rebound.

Sporting had spent most of the game soaking up the home team's pressure but took the lead to the shock of the Mestalla faithful five minutes into the second half.

Jony Rodriguez was clipped as he attempted to beat Danilo Barbosa, and Sanabria sent Matthew Ryan the wrong way to score his 10th goal of the season - and his fourth in two games.

The spot-kick saw Valencia fell behind for an eighth successive league game under Neville. They are still yet to take the lead in a league game in his brief reign.

Valencia almost responded five minutes later, Negredo heading a corner onto the far post.

It was far from the last moment of anguish for the former Manchester City striker, who smashed into the side-netting after being gifted the ball unchallenged with just Cuellar to beat, and then lifted the ball over the bar after Jose Gaya had cut it back to him inside the area.

Valencia still could have levelled, substitute Rodrigo Moreno glancing a header just wide of the far post and Feghouli missing a one-on-one in added time, and at the final whistle boos and whistles rang out at an immensely frustrated Mestalla.

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