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Europa League dream is still alive for Valencia – Neville

Valencia coach Gary Neville praised his team’s performance in dreadful conditions after they lost 1-0 to Athletic Bilbao in the Europa League.

The first leg of the last-16 tie was played on an extremely heavy pitch and Valencia struggled to cope, going down to a first-half Raul Garcia goal and failed to trouble Bilbao’s defence in the pouring rain at San Mames on Thursday.

But Neville remains confident the atmosphere at the Mestalla will help Valencia swing the tie back in their favour.

He said: “I think both teams played very well in the most difficult conditions I’ve seen in a game. No one has complained and I think both teams have had a good spirit.

“You can never be happy to lose but we go to Mestalla with a good chance. I think the result there may be different.

“It will be a special night. We will need a good performance but I believe in the players.”

Neville added: “Despite not winning, I have congratulated the players for maintaining the spirit in these conditions, which as I say, were the worst I’ve seen in my life.”

The former Manchester United captain credited the performance of goalkeeper Mathew Ryan, who has been second choice to Diego Alves for much of the season but made a string of key saves against Bilbao.

“He has played very well making several important stops,” said Neville.

“We had to do without Diego due to illness, but I am fortunate to have two very good goalkeepers.”

Neville came under fire after Valencia’s previous game, which they lost 3-1 to Atletico Madrid, and the Englishman responded to accusations that he was laughing during that defeat.

“I do not know what to say. Playing for Valencia CF is very important, but it’s also a sport and we are human,” he said.

“Sometimes we laugh, sometimes we cry – everything is passion. We were all sad after the match against Atletico and I think you cannot doubt the commitment of the players.”

Thu 10 Mar, 2016
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