Valencia eliminated in Gary Neville's debut as head coach
Dec. 09, 2015
VALENCIA, Spain (AP) — Valencia was eliminated from the Champions League after a 2-0 home loss to Lyon in new coach Gary Neville's first game in charge on Wednesday.
Maxwel Cornet and Alexandre Lacazette scored a goal in each half to give already-eliminated Lyon its first win in the competition this season and end Valencia's chances of advancing to the round of 16.
"They were better than us and there's no excuse," Neville said. "We can't be happy with how we played and we can't blame anyone. We have a fight in front of us, an objective. Today we simply weren't good enough."
Not even a win would have been enough for Valencia as Gent defeated Zenit St. Petersburg 2-1 in Belgium to secure second place in Group H and a spot in the knockout stage.
Zenit won the group with 15 points from six games, five points ahead of Gent. Valencia finished third with six points, good enough for a spot in the Europe League. Lyon was last in the group with four points.
Valencia needed a win as well as Gent losing points against already-qualified Zenit in the other group game.
"I think we had lead in our legs, as if we had played another game today," Neville said. "We were the better side in the first half, but in the second we conceded a lot of counterattacks and conceded the second goal. Lyon have good attacking players but we should have done much better."
Neville took over Valencia on Sunday, a day after the former Manchester United and England defender watched his new team draw 1-1 with Barcelona in the Spanish league.
Valencia got off to a fast start at the Mestalla Stadium, with defender Shkodran Mustafi hitting the post with a header in the eighth minute and having a goal disallowed just minutes later for a foul inside the area.
"This was one of those games where you have possession but they end up scoring," Mustafi said. "They did a good job, because they scored two goals with two shots. Against Barcelona everyone saw that we are a team that can play well against the best sides. I think today we were just missing the final pass."
Already eliminated and playing without pressure, Lyon also threatened, forcing Valencia goalkeeper Jaume Domenech to make two great saves early on to keep his team in contention.
But there was nothing he could do to stop Cornet's remarkable shot into the top corner in the 37th, and Lacazette sealed Lyon's win with a low shot after a counterattack in the 76th.
The victory should help ease criticism of Lyon coach Hubert Fournier. In addition to being eliminated from all European competition, his team has taken only one point from its last four French league games.
"It's a good feeling," Lyon captain Maxime Gonalons said. "We have had tough moments in this competition. We had nothing to lose here. We showed, at least, we can produce good things."
Valencia was trying to become the fourth Spanish team to reach the round of 16, along with defending champion Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid. Sevilla was eliminated on Tuesday.
Neville had to deal with a series of injuries that ruled out defenders Antonio Barragan and Lucas Orban, midfielder Andre Gomes, and forwards Sofiane Fegholi and Rodrigo Moreno.
To make things worse, Enzo Perez had to be replaced early in the first half, also because of an injury.