By Michael Church
Valencia lacked spark and were too vulnerable to counter attacks in Wednesday’s 2-0 defeat to Olympique Lyonnais that ended their hopes of advancing to the Champions League knockout round, according to coach Gary Neville.
Appointed last week to succeed Nuno Espirito Santo, Neville had a disappointing first game in charge and the Singapore-owned club finished third in Group H behind Zenit St Petersburg and Ghent and will go into Monday’s draw for the Europa League.
Maxwell Cornet put Lyon in front eight minutes before half-time at the Mestalla stadium and Alexandre Lacazette sealed victory for the Ligue 1 side in the 76th minute with a solo breakaway effort.
Neville said he had been hoping for a similar performance to Saturday when Valencia fought back from a goal down to rescue a 1-1 draw at home to Spanish and European champions Barcelona in La Liga.
He said a rash of injuries to key players had contributed to the team’s inability to see off Lyon, who Valencia beat 1-0 in France at the end of September and who finished bottom of the section.
“We have to work harder to prevent counter attacks, I think that was the main problem,” Neville told reporters.
“And not having that spark, that thrust that we had against Barcelona,” added the former England defender.
“The Barcelona game was incredible. It’s not a criticism it’s just something we have to work on.”
Neville said he was not thinking about who Valencia might play in the Europa League – they could be drawn against his former club Manchester United – and was fully focused on Valencia’s La Liga game at Eibar on Sunday.
Valencia are eighth in the standings after 14 matches, level on 20 points with Eibar but ahead on goal difference.
“I’m thinking about Sunday’s game in the league, I’m thinking about recuperation, recovery, and making sure the players are the best prepared for Sunday,” Neville said.
“I’m positive about what I’ve seen in terms of the application,” he added.
“You see some of the effort that was being put in by the players to try and recover the game was immense.
“I’m positive about what I’ve seen the last two days in training. I know that they (the players) understand certain things that we want to do.”