MADRID (Reuters) – Valencia’s struggles under new coach Gary Neville continued when they had to come from behind to rescue a 1-1 draw in their King’s Cup quarter-final first leg at home to Las Palmas on Thursday.
Former Manchester United and England defender Neville took over at the Singapore-owned club last month after Nuno Espirito Santo was sacked but has yet to land a win in La Liga in six attempts.
Valencia fell behind in the 38th minute at the Mestalla when midfielder Wilfried Zahibo headed the ball past goalkeeper Mathew Ryan and into his own net at a free kick.
Paco Alcacer levelled in the 61st minute with a well-struck shot from just outside the penalty area but the home side were unable to make sustained late pressure count.
Alvaro Negredo fluffed a great chance in the third minute of added time when he failed to connect cleanly with a Jose Luis Gaya centre, 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 told a news conference. “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 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.
Sevilla, the five-times winners who last lifted the trophy in 2010, gained the upper hand over Mirandes, the only non-La Liga team left in the competition, when they beat the second division side 2-0.
Midfielder Steven N’Zonzi netted for the Europa League holders in the 20th minute at the Sanchez Pizjuan and substitute Vitolo struck from close range in the fourth minute of added time.
On Wednesday, holders Barcelona made smooth progress in their bid for a fourth Cup triumph in eight years when Munir el Haddadi and Neymar struck in a 2-1 victory at Athletic Bilbao.
Barca have beaten Bilbao three times in the final since 2009, including last season, and the Spanish and European champions made light of the absence of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez to gain the upper hand ahead of the return game at the Nou Camp.
Celta Vigo, who have never won Spain’s domestic knockout competition, kept alive their hopes when they held Atletico Madrid, the 2013 winners and La Liga leaders, to a 0-0 draw at their Balaidos stadium in Galicia.
(Writing by Iain Rogers, editing by Tony Jimenez)