'Unacceptable'- Gary Neville blasts Valencia's first half performance as they fail to win again
Gary Neville praised his Valencia side's ability to bounce back after coming from behind twice to scrape a 2-2 draw with Rayo Vallecano, but called their first-half performance "unacceptable".
Valencia managed just three shots in the opening 45 minutes against struggling Rayo, who took an early lead through Jozabed. Alvaro Negredo equalised for Los Che in the second half with a stunning strike from 50 yards out but Rayo restored their lead when Diego Llorente was granted too much space to fire home following a corner.
Valencia secured the point their performance scarcely deserved as Paco Alcacer levelled late on, minutes after an earlier effort from the same player had been wrongly disallowed for offside.
"The first half I find difficult to explain, it was an incredibly disappointing performance," Neville told reporters at a press conference. "I said at half-time that for me football is about joy. Of course you have to win but you have to enjoy the experience, you have to have expression, and in the first half we didn't show anything.
"But there are two positives I can take, which is the response in the second half and that players have demonstrated again and again that they have spirit to come back in games they haven't done well in."
This fightback was the fourth time Valencia have taken a point after going behind in Neville's six league games in charge, and he said that showed that his team did not lack leaders, as local media have suggested.
"People will say there's no spirit and no fight. but teams don't come back from losing positions unless they've got fighting spirit," he said. "If there was no response I'd be concerned, but I see response after response. We did it against Getafe, Eibar, Real Madrid and today, and that counts for a lot. Leadership is showing fighting spirit when the game is against you. When you're 2-0 down, 1-0 down, you have to show leadership characteristics to fight back."
Neville was also careful not to criticise the decision to rule out Alcacer's effort before the Spain international finally levelled because of his team's overall display.
"The goal was onside but it wouldn't be right for me to talk about a disallowed goal," he said. "You've seen the game, and Rayo's coach will be disappointed with the result."
Valencia's supporters booed the players off the pitch at half-time, but Neville believes their reaction may have helped his side come out stronger after the break.
"At any football ground fans have the absolute right to express themselves any way they want. The fans here are fantastic, they are passionate, and you heard them still singing in the second half," he said.
"There's no way I can criticise them for some boos at half-time. In terms of the effect it has, today it had a positive effect because we played a lot better in the second than in the first half."
And although Neville is still searching for a first league win since succeeding Nuno Espirito Santo in December, he insisted he was not disheartened by their form.
He added: "My confidence in myself is fine, the confidence in terms of the work we're doing is good. I agree the results are not what I wanted or the club or the fans expect. It's taking time to change to get to a level I want. It's not for a lack of effort from the players. They ran a million miles to get the game back. The work I'm doing here I believe in and the players believe in it."