Even in the face of a disappointing-looking 2-2 home draw with Club Alético de Madrid there were some positives for Valencia CF to take from their UEFA Europa League quarter-final first leg against Valencia CF.
The 21-year-old Jordí Alba did well deputising at left-back, David Villa conjured up his sixth goal of the European campaign while Manuel Fernandes took almost complete control of the middle of the field.
The Portuguese midfielder has become a rare sight out on the Mestalla pitch but on an evening where Valencia created numerous chances and scored twice he could barely have looked more comfortable, in control and with a special explosive power in his shooting boots.
Fernandes it was who cracked in the first Valencia equaliser barely five minutes after the visitors had taken the lead through Diego Forlán. It was a thundering strike which brought a massive roar from the relieved Mestalla faithful. "As soon as I hit the ball I knew it was going to be really dangerous, but I cannot claim that I absolutely knew it was going in," the Valencia stand-in told UEFA.com.
The injury absence of captain David Albelda and suspension of Éver Banega should mean this performance earns Fernandes more game time in this competition and La Liga. "It has been a difficult season for me here with some injuries and the fact I was supposed to be leaving at Christmas.
There is some doubt over my future at the club, but I do want to remain here so I just went out to try and do my best so that no one has any doubt about my motivation."
David Villa, the star of the last round's remarkable win over Werder Bremen, profited by scoring from one of Valencia's 16 shots on goal after Antonio López had headed Atlético 2-1 up. It is the fighting spirit that runs right throughout their injury-hit squad which Fernandes argues will see them through to the last four.
"You see that spirit in the players who are often out injured but are ready to be called on and brought into the team after only a few games under their belts. People are willing to fight for the team, play out of position and work. This level of football is no longer a sport where you can rely on only 11 men – the squad needs to come into play and help the first team."
Atlético goalkeeper David De Gea waged a one-man battle to keep the score down and, despite conceding twice, left the Mestalla stadium pretty content. "This is a good draw because we came here with the intention of scoring and we actually got two.
I love games like this, you come to a really difficult away ground to face one of the great strikers in the world and it really motivates you.
"We've scored two vital away goals and although this doesn't mean we have one foot in the semi-final we achieved what we wanted which was to keep the tie open for the second leg at our ground."
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