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He is just 23 and made only his third UEFA Champions League appearance on Tuesday, but Vicente Guaita was all that prevented FC Schalke 04 inflicting what would have been a disastrous UEFA Champions League round of 16 first-leg home defeat on Valencia CF.
Guaita's team took the lead, played much of the game with authority and created enough chances to end their run of five draws and a loss in their last six visits from German sides in UEFA competition. However, had it not been for two absolutely magnificent saves from Guaita – in the first half from a looping Peer Kluge header and then an instinctive full-length dive to his right to deny Raúl González – Valencia would have been beaten.
Just to emphasise that he intends to cling on to UEFA Champions League football for as long as possible, the youngster, who has displaced his mentor César Sánchez, also raced out of goal to hack the ball clear before Klaas-Jan Huntelaar could pounce with the scores tied at 1-1. Guaita told UEFA.com it was not defiance that inspired him but the belief that Unai Emery's team could go to Gelsenkirchen and outscore Schalke in the 9 March return to reach the last eight.
Home-grown talent Guaita said: "
We live on in hope – no way does this result mean the door is closed on our chances. If anyone has written us off they are making a big mistake. We'll go to Germany, play to win and make sure we do our jobs to our utmost. As far as this match goes, you could say we are disappointed we didn't win – the victory was there for us.
"But while it doesn't feel good to draw at home in Europe, I think the key thing was that the team were totally up for it," he added. "We were in the game and it was still more important that we didn't lose. Thanks to that we have 90 minutes over at their stadium and I can promise we are going to make it very difficult for them."
Post match, it might have felt that fate intervened to ensure Raúl's return to a club he delighted in tormenting – witness 12 Liga goals in 24 meetings plus one more in the 2000 UEFA Champions League final – was a scoring one. However, the former Real Madrid CF and Spain striker worked incessantly to keep his side in contention – equalising after Roberto Soldado's first-half opener – and had it not been for Guaita, Raúl would have left with an even bigger smile of satisfaction.
"That it was me against Raul and his reputation didn't enter my mind," Guaita said. "He's someone to admire but your job is to stop shots and defeat your opponents, simple as that. As far as my two big saves are concerned I think they were equally important, I wouldn't like to choose between them.
"But we are still in this game not because of the goalkeeper but because we put in a huge team effort. Everyone took their share of the responsibility and we can all walk away knowing we did our best."
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