The Journeyman | Vamos Valencia: Part 11 – Battling with Betis

After 10 games of their 2027/28 La Liga campaign, Valencia CF were sitting pretty at the top of the table and a club record unbeaten run of 13 matches in all competitions.

However, that streak came to an abrupt end with a 2-0 defeat at surprise high-flyers Real Betis. But we bounced back to winning ways led by our new star striker Philip Cohen, who we’d just poached from former club Sporting Lisbon. Cohen bagged his second hat-trick of the season in a 3-2 win at Mallorca, in which they somehow managed to score twice from three shots.

Cohen’s form of 8 goals in 5 matches led to the English striker winning the October player of the month award in just his second month in Spanish football. This kid really is a special player.

Real Madrid drew yet another match – their sixth draw after 13 games – this time at bottom of the league Osasuna as we prepared to host Real Sociedad. And we took advantage of their slip up with another 1-0 win courtesy of a lovely curled effort by midfield loanee Carlos Dias. And that saw us 8 points clear of both Real and Barcelona, who’d already lost 3 matches, but 1 behind Betis.

Betis then lost their third game of the season at Real Zaragoza, and we took full advantage with a solid 2-0 win at home to Real Valladolid. José Gaya scored a penalty on the verge of half-time then Raldane Barber scored this ridiculous effort…

But Cohen was the main man once again as he scored early on then laid on a goal for Philippe Marquet in the second half. The next day Real Madrid lost 4-0 at Villarreal – I have no idea what is going on there, but I’ve looked at their squad and can’t see anything obviously wrong. That meant we were already 13 points of 5th placed Real after 15 games.

We played Villarreal the next week and swept past them 3-1 with goals from Juan Martín Sancho, a screamer by Dias and Marquet. On the same day, Betis lost at home to Real Sociedad, which left us 5 points clear at the top.

We then scored 3 again in the next game, unfortunately we also conceded 3! The front three of Cohen, Sancho and Marquet all scored but we managed to throw away a 3-1 lead. And the next day, Real lost again, leaving them down in 8th after 17 matches!

Huge top of the table clash

We took that strong form into a huge clash at home to Barcelona. It was unsurprisingly a pretty tight clash but Marco Kana’s superb long-range strike in the first-half proved to be the difference maker.

Winning ways continue

After a nice break or Christmas, the Valencia chicos kept the good times rolling as 2028 came around. We dominated at home to Celta, going two ahead through Cohen and Dias and remained comfortable as they got one back in the second half. Then we dominated again in a 2-0 win at home to Girona thanks to two goals in three minutes by Marquet and Cohen at the end of the first half.

And we kept that going as a Marquet brace and a goal from Sancho took us to a 3-0 win at Getafe, extending our unbeaten run to 10 matches. But the streak of wins ended with a hard-fought 1-1 draw at Athletic Bilbao, in which we went ahead early through a wonderful Cohen goal, they equalised then Gaya got himself sent off.

But we got back to winning ways with a strong 4-0 victory at home to Eibar. Marquet got things going with a close range finish before three second half goals from Soler, Cohen and Vladan Cula’s first of the season – and only his third in 56 appearances for the club.

All the away days

A streak of five consecutive away matches in all competitions followed. Our 13-game unbeaten run came to an end at Celta, who scored with their first two shots and beat us 2-1. We then went to Atletico and Cohen gave us the lead on 81 minutes only for Angel Correa to smash in a free-kick two minutes later, and we earned a solid 1-1 draw. Luckily, Betis drew 0-0 with Real at the same time, and Barca had drawn 1-1 at Getafe the previous day.

An away game at Man United (see below), then we went to Barca for a huge league game. And we put in what I think is our best performance yet with a smash and grab win at Nou Camp. Cohen opened the scoring after a lovely Josha Vagnoman cross on 21 minutes then he doubled his tally and took his season total to 25 goals with a second teed up by Marquet on 69 minutes. Barca will feel hard done by after 15 shots to our 6 but it’s a massive win for us at the top of the table.

We backed that up with a solid 3-1 win at home to Sevilla, in which we led 2-0 through a Dias penalty and a lovely goal by Barber. They get one back just before half-time only for Cohen to restore the two-goal lead with a goal 20 seconds into the second half.

Then we faced another tough game at 6th-placed Villarreal and went ahead just after the break through a Gaya penalty, but they went straight down the other end and scored. A dull game raced to a 1-1 draw.

That leaves us in a tight title battle with another surprise package Real Betis, who haven’t lost a league game since the first week of December (nearly 4 months). Real are probably out of it some 11 points behind us, while Barca still have a shout as they’re 7 points back.

Champions League qualification at a canter

We won our first three Champions League group games, then went away to Partizan and won 3-0 with a heavily rotated starting eleven. Then welcomed Dortmund and secured a lucky 1-0 win courtesy of an own goal, which confirmed qualification in first place. Milan could miss out on qualification despite scoring 15 in two games against Partizan!

We then got drawn against Man United and we didn’t have a left winger available, so it basically wasn’t worth turning up. They scored with their first shot then scored again just before half-time in the first leg. Scumbags. Focus on the league, which I did by putting an entirely changed team out for the second leg and only lost 1-0.

Copa de su Majestad el Rey

His Majesty the King’s Cup, if my ropey Spanish is to be believed, wouldn’t normally garner a mention in such blogs. But this year we’ve managed to make it through to the semi-finals. And, furthermore, both Real and Barca have been knocked out!

We were up against Malaga in the two-legged semis. The first leg was a dreadful match, but we got an away goal to draw 1-1. Then we snuck into the final with a 1-0 home win in the second leg secured by Barber on 84 minutes. And we’ll play Betis in the Final.

Join us next time as we tackle the final 8 matches of La Liga and go to the Spanish Cup Final!

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