Valencia CF will travel to the Weserstadion next week happy in the knowledge their 1-1 home draw against Werder Bremen could have been significantly worse – in fact, by their players' own admission, they could be practically out of the UEFA Europa League already.
Juan Mata, who ensured this was not the case by scoring a second-half equaliser, told UEFA.com it had been a close shave. "We weren't the real Valencia for part of that match, and Werder had chances to kill the tie off completely – thankfully they didn't take them," said the Spain midfielder.
"I think their goal knocked us back because we all realised the importance of them getting the away goal," Mata added of the first-leg encounter. "But what I'll take from the game is how we responded in the second half after Ever Banega's red card. We played well, created chances and finished the match with a good feeling about what we had achieved."
Torsten Frings registered Bremen's opener from the penalty spot in the 24th minute, and the situation improved further for the visitors when Banega was dismissed ten minutes after the restart. Within 120 seconds, though, the tie was level. Even so, Mata knows there is plenty still to do. "German sides, as we found out again tonight, are always really competitive," he said. "You think they are out of a game and suddenly they hit you with one isolated attack and score. The goal gave us wings and even with ten men we caused them problems, which is something we will take from this experience."
The UEFA Europa League's leading marksman, Claudio Pizarro, did not add to his eight goals, being one of the men in orange who failed to convert opportunities to earn Bremen a more significant advantage in the round of 16 contest. "It was a night for the goalkeepers," striker Pizarro said. "We didn't get the goals we deserved because César [Sánchez] played very well, but so did Tim [Wiese]. I guess it was the keepers' turn to shine.
"It's a pity I didn't score because I'd have loved to add to my tally, but it's even more of a shame that the team didn't get more because we had loads of chances. All the same, we are relaxed about the result. We played very well, particularly in the first half, but we found the going a little more difficult in the second even though we had 11 against ten. Now it's time to finish the job at home."
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