Goalkeeper Diego Alves had no regrets after his Valencia CF side gave a spirited display in their 1-0 UEFA Europa League semi-final defeat by Club Atlético de Madrid. "There is no reproaching any of our players," he said, before explaining to UEFA.com that it was the disappointing first-leg showing that accounted for their exit.
Unai Emery's side enjoyed exalted status among the remaining semi-finalists as the only team to have competed in this season's UEFA Champions League, yet that counted for little against an Atlético team who – thanks to a wonderful Adrián López volley – added an away-leg win to their 4-2 triumph in the Spanish capital seven days earlier. Indeed, according to Alves, it was that initial reverse that gave his side too much to do.
"We had a hard task in trying to come back from that deficit," Alves told UEFA.com. "
In the first half we went looking for the opening goal and created some great chances after putting in a huge effort. In the second, they managed to score against us in their first attack. From that point on, it became extremely complicated trying to bounce back."
Having failed to qualify from a UEFA Champions League group that contained finalists Chelsea FC, Bayer 04 Leverkusen and KRC Genk earlier this season, the 2004 UEFA Cup winners responded by eliminating Stoke City FC, PSV Eindhoven and AZ Alkmaar to set up a UEFA Europa League last-four decider against Atlético.
Just as they did at the quarter-final stage of this tournament two years ago, however, Valencia lost out to the Rojiblancos, relinquishing their unbeaten record in UEFA competition to Spanish opposition at Mestalla in the process.
"There is no reproaching any of our players," added the Rio de Janeiro native. "In tonight's game we went for it but just couldn't score. Their goalkeeper [Thibaut Courtois] had an excellent game. The key to the semi-final was the first leg ‒ that's where our opponents gained a crucial advantage."
Sofiane Feghouli, meanwhile, said his team lacked the luck required to extend their European season by one more game. "
We tried to attack Atlético along the floor, in the air, with long shots; in every possible manner, but we just couldn't get the breakthrough," he said. "Fortune didn't favour us tonight and we ended the game quite tired. All I can say now is a big 'thank you' to our fans and that I am sorry because we really wanted to get through to the final."
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