FC Schalke 04 comfortably earned a point at the Mestalla to leave themselves needing to beat Rosenborg BK at home in the final group fixture to qualify for the UEFA Champions League knockout rounds. For Valencia CF a frustrating night that saw them play almost an hour with ten men means they can go no further in the competition.
It never looked like going Valencia's way from their tentative start to the game and especially from the 32nd minute when they lost captain David Albelda, making his 75th appearance in the competition, to a red card. Ronald Koeman's side showed little fluency and struggled to create chances although David Villa nearly won it in added time but slid a decent chance wide.
The stakes were high and there was an urgency about Valencia's game. They knew it was a case of three points or they were out. Yet there was a real nervousness about some of their play, Joaquín proving a frustration to his team-mates as time and again he opted to hold on to the ball for too long. By contrast, Schalke looked comfortable and threatened first when Ivan Rakitić got away down the right, and fended off Iván Helguera. His cross seemed to be heading Kevin Kuranyi's way but Luis Miguel got in with a fine challenge. Shortly after Carlos Marchena was the defender to the rescue when Kuranyi had escaped Helguera's attentions.
Edu was trying hard to get the home attack moving and a spark of hope arrived when Vicente Rodríguez sent in a cross for Joaquín. But a huge blow to Valencia's hopes arrived in the 32nd minute. Schalke were breaking with stealth and speed and when Rafinha surged down the right Albelda knew he had to get a challenge in. He was late and the referee had no hesitation in showing him the red card. Before that Marcelo Bordon had headed wide from a corner and Fabian Ernst had sent a volley straight at Santiago Cañizares.
Before the break Koeman replaced Fernando Morientes with Manuel Fernandes, and sent on Raúl Albiol for Marco Caneira. Just seconds before the half-time whistle Valencia should have scored following a free-kick but Marchena hesitated fatally and enabled Manuel Neuer to parry.
The German side were back carving out chances at the start of the second half, however. Rakitić fired wide while Marchena's timing needed to be perfect once more as he arrived to crowd out Halil Altıntop just as he had rounded Cañizares with the goal at his mercy. The ten men were being roared to greater efforts by a passionate home crowd. Their passing was not quite as lucid, though and they struggled to get a sight of goal. Vicente shot along the ground but it did not demand anything special from Neuer. Back came Schalke and Kuranyi was found by Mesut Özil but could not direct his shot away from the goalkeeper, while Villa missed a late chance at the other end as Valencia hopes were extinguished.
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