Valencia held, compounding Neville's woes

MADRID • Gary Neville's difficult start to life as Valencia coach continued on Thursday as the Spanish football club could manage only a 1-1 draw at home with Las Palmas in the first leg of their Copa del Rey quarter-final.

The Cup has been his safe haven so far, with the team winning all three of their previous games in the competition while simultaneously failing to deliver a win in six attempts in Spain's Primera Liga.

However, Wilfried Zahibo's own goal leaves Valencia with plenty of work to do in next week's second leg despite Paco Alcacer's second-half equaliser.

"They only had one chance in the game which was the set piece," said Neville, the former Manchester United and England defender who took over at the Singapore-owned football club last month after Nuno Espirito Santo was sacked.

"We were anxious in the final third, but at least we had sustained attacks," he said. "We didn't deserve to be down in that game.

"We keep going behind and it'll be a very difficult game for us, but it'll also be very difficult for Las Palmas in the return."

Alcacer had a great chance to give the hosts the perfect start, but could only fire against the body of goalkeeper Raul Lizoain when played clean through on goal.

Las Palmas did not even have a shot on goal before half-time. But, such is Valencia's luck at the moment, they still managed to go in front when French youngster Zahibo headed an aimless free kick into his own net at the back post.

As so often this season, Alcacer came to Valencia's rescue when he fired home his 11th goal of the campaign just after the hour mark.

And substitute Alvaro Negredo missed a great chance to hand Valencia the advantage in the tie when he failed to connect properly with Jose Luis Gaya's low cross in stoppage time, leaving Las Palmas with an advantage for next week's return leg in the Canary Islands.

"When you draw a game at home, you are always disappointed," Neville said. "But if we play like we did today again, we will win matches."

Veteran Juan Carlos Valeron, who played against Neville in the Champions League more than a decade ago when the attacking midfielder was at Deportivo La Coruna, said it was a great result for Las Palmas who are 16th in La Liga.

"We'll try to make the most of it in the return and being able to keep the tie alive was very important for us," added the 40-year-old former Spain international who was in the Las Palmas side that knocked Valencia out of the King's Cup in 1997.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 23, 2016, with the headline 'Valencia held, compounding Neville's woes'. Print Edition | Subscribe