Valencia 2-1 Espanyol: Hosts come from behind to earn Gary Neville first La Liga win
By Pete Hall
Last Updated: 14/02/16 9:42am
Gary Neville tasted league victory for the first time as Valencia manager after his side came from behind to beat Espanyol 2-1 in the Mestalla.
Oscar Duarte piled the pressure on Neville as he beat Valencia 'keeper Diego Alves to the ball to head home on 53 minutes to give Espanyol a deserved lead.
The Mestalla feared the worst, but Neville's substitutions paid dividends, as Alvaro Negredo equalised soon afterwards, via a deflection.
Then, there was delirium in the stands - and on the bench - on 76 minutes, as Denis Cheryshev fired home what proved to be a crucial winner.
The result moves Valencia up to 11th in the table but, more importantly, alleviates a great deal of pressure on Neville's inexperienced managerial shoulders. Espanyol remain 17th.
In a tentative first half display, Neville's men looked disjointed, and could not create any real openings, and they had Alves to thank for keeping them in the encounter with a stunning save to deny Felipe Caicedo.
Espanyol continued to test Alves, adding to the home fans' frustrations. Down the other end, Paco Alcacer was starved of any real service, with Daniel Parejo's free-kick from distance the closest the hosts came in the opening 45 minutes.
After the break, the game sprung into life, as Duarte stunned the Mestalla and put Valencia behind.
Alves looked to be first to a left-wing Espanyol corner, but Duarte came out of nowhere, rose highest, and headed home.
Neville wasted no time in changing things around and introduced Negredo, who grabbed the vital leveller on 71 minutes.
Joao Cancelo darted right through the heart of the Espanyol backline, couldn't get the shot away, the ball fell to Negredo who fired past Pau Sabata in the visitors' goal, with the help of a hefty deflection.
Duarte should have had his second, but his free header from eight yards out missed the target, and Espanyol were made to pay for their profligacy.
Sofiane Feghouli did brilliantly to get to the byline, clipped a perfect cross into the path of the onrushing Cheryshev, who steered the ball into the net.
The action wasn't finished there, as Valencia lived dangerously late on. Alves firstly made a mess of coming to collect the ball, but from the resulting corner, he somehow kept Alvaro's powerful strike out, when he seemed destined to score.
Gerard Moreno dragged wide late on, but Valencia held on, sparking scenes of mass celebration, with Neville looking especially joyous.
Meanwhile, it has been confirmed Neville has added Rafa Benitez' former assistant coach at Liverpool, Paco Ayesteran, to his coaching team.