Valencia CF coach Rafael Benítez lamented the fact that his team failed to score away from home.
By Graham Hunter in Villarreal
Valencia CF coach Rafael Benítez lamented the fact that his team visited Villarreal CF but failed to register a crucial victory despite dominating the first leg of their UEFA Cup semi-final.
Benítez's side played fine attacking football and created scoring opportunities which fell to Vicente Rodríguez and Rubén Baraja but the Primera División leaders left their neighbours' El Madrigal without what might have been a priceless away goal.
"It is still all to play for but we missed openings which I would normally expect us to convert," explained Benítez. "The main point is that we have to improve our finishing. But the result leaves it all up for grabs in two weeks' time at the Mestalla - and the good thing about that is that it will be decided in the second leg at our own stadium, in front of our own fans."
The atmosphere was fantastic, robust but friendly, and even the four bookings failed to add any unpleasant edge to a fiercely competed local derby. But Benítez was concerned that his side had not made their work in a fortnight more straightforward. "I think we had three or four clear moments to score," he added.
"They controlled much of the possession but I state clearly that we had the better chances in the game. However, justice is not part of the story at this level - you simply must take your chances and now we have to do that in the next game having failed to do so this time."
Villarreal coach Francisco García was surprisingly unperturbed by the failure of his team to win their home tie. He said: "Although we did not score tonight it means that if we get an away goal in two weeks' time it will make it so much more difficult for Valencia. I can't wait for the second leg. They have the home advantage as far as support is concerned but we go to Valencia confident after this match."
Sonny Anderson who played the majority of the evening with a badly cut eyebrow after an early clash, said: "We have competed against the best defence in Europe and so we always expected it to be tough to score. This is by no means a bad result. In order to reach the final we have just one more big match to go and although nothing will be easy we can still do it."
Valencia captain David Albelda, on his return to Villarreal where he played until moving to the Mestalla in 1999, revealed: "This is precisely the style of tough evening I expected. We had complete respect for Villarreal and to take them to our ground with this result is not bad."
Villarreal's Roger García added: "Neither team deserved to lose by the end - this was a clear game of two different halves. We had much the better of the first and Valencia then made more chances for themselves after the break."
Valencia striker Mista, whose aim was poor but whose dummy created the game's best chance, for Vicente, was in philosophical mood. "We did throw away opportunities to win but when the chances don't want to go in they just won't go in," he told uefa.com. "It is not a big deal not to win but it is a big deal not to have conceded a goal. This was never going to be easy and now we are in pole position - that is sufficient for me."