MADRID (Reuters) – Gary Neville’s disappointing start as Valencia coach continued when the ambitious Singapore-owned club drew 2-2 at home to lowly Rayo Vallecano in La Liga on Sunday, prompting more rumblings of discontent from the fans.
Neville, who took over when Nuno Espirito Santo was sacked last month, has overseen six games without a win in Spain’s top division, with four draws and two defeats leaving the team mired down in 10th place.
Unless they can rapidly string a run of victories together, Valencia risk missing out on a lucrative berth in continental competition for next season, the least they would have expected before the start of the campaign.
Sunday’s stalemate means Valencia, who last won La Liga in 2004, have drawn five league matches in a row at home for only the second time and the first since 1969.
Midfielder Jozabed Sanchez put Rayo ahead in the 15th minute at the Mestalla with a superb first-time strike that flew past goalkeeper Mathew Ryan into the net.
Alvaro Negredo conjured a moment of genius to level 10 minutes into the second half when the former Spain striker won the ball near the halfway line and sent a snap shot arrowing over Rayo keeper Juan Carlos Martin.
The goal lifted the home side but they were rocked back again when poor defending at a 69th-minute corner allowed Rayo defender Diego Llorente to hook the ball high past Ryan.
A fluffed clearance by Rayo defender Ze Castro let substitute Paco Alcacer in to bundle the ball home and rescue a point two minutes from time.
Valencia, who are in the last 32 of the Europa League and through to the King’s Cup quarter-finals, have 24 points from 20 matches, eight points off the European qualification places. Rayo are third from bottom on 16 points.
Atletico Madrid, who play at Las Palmas later on Sunday, are two points clear of second-placed champions Barcelona at the top on 44 points at the halfway stage of the campaign.
Barca, who have played one game fewer than their main rivals, host Athletic Bilbao on Sunday and Real Madrid, two points adrift of their arch rivals in third, play at home to Sporting Gijon.
(Writing by Iain Rogers, editing by Pritha Sarkar)