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Valencia hold Atletico in thrilling draw

August 22, 2018

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VALENCIA: Atletico Madrid’s Diego Costa (R) challenges Gabriel Paulista of Valencia during their La Liga match at the Mestalla Stadium.—AFP
VALENCIA: Atletico Madrid’s Diego Costa (R) challenges Gabriel Paulista of Valencia during their La Liga match at the Mestalla Stadium.—AFP

VALENCIA: Valencia’s Rodrigo struck a fine second-half volley to earn a 1-1 draw at home to Atletico Madrid in an end-to-end clash as both sides got their La Liga campaigns underway on Monday.

Atletico’s Angel Correa put the attack-minded visitors ahead when he fired home in the 26th minute after reaching Antoine Griezmann’s cunning pass at Valencia’s Mestalla Stadium.

Diego Costa came close to doubling the lead but Neto denied him with a fine save before Rodrigo volleyed home in the 55th to level for Valencia after a rare mistake by defender Diego Godin.

Gabriel Paulista hit the post for the hosts and Daniel Wass was denied by Atletico keeper Jan Oblak when debutant Michy Batshuayi sent him through on goal in the 90th as Valencia pushed for a late winner but ultimately came up short.

“For much of the game we were superior to Atletico Madrid,” said Valencia coach Marcelino. “We had a lot more chances than in either of the games [against them] last season.”

There are high hopes at the Wanda Metropolitano that Atletico can muster a serious title challenge, after keeping their key players in the close season and claiming an impressive extra-time win over city rivals Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup last week.

But they were given a tough test to start the campaign at a strong Valencia outfit who will be playing in the Champions League this season for the first time since 2015 after finishing fourth.

“It’s a shame because we wanted to bring the win home and we didn’t manage it,” the 23-year-old Correa told BeIN Sports Spain. “The effort we put in for the Super Cup isn’t an excuse for us, we know how to repeat that kind of effort. There is a long way to go before talking about it [the title], we must continue to work.”

Later on Monday, Iker Muniain scored in the third minute of injury time to give Athletic Bilbao a 2-1 win over Leganes at the San Mames, after Jonathan Silva had equalised for the visitors following Peru Nolaskoain’s 27th-minute opener.

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2018