Earlier today, Valencia was eliminated from the Copa Del Rey after they lost out 2-0 away to Atletico Madrid in the second leg of their Round of 16 tie. The game was tightly knit, as chances were created, but both goal keepers stood on their heads to keep the ball out most of the time.
However, what undid Valencia were two set-pieces — corner kicks to be exact. The first one was headed home by defender Diego Godin, while the other was scored the same way from the man who scored against them in the first leg, Raul Garcia. They both found plenty of space and were even able to jump over the respective defenders, who did a terrible job of blocking their attempts.
When it comes to professional soccer, one of the first things that players learn is how to play defense with discipline. Corner-kicks seem simple, but as most of us know, they are anything but. Let me rephrase that, corner-kicks seem easy to score as the ball is swung into the heart of the 18 with the hopes of an attacking player being able to hit it home with either his feet, head or any other part of his body except for his arm or hand.
Defending corners is an entirely different ball game. The defenders have to cover their guys closely as they push, shove, run and never stop until they find themselves an opening near where the ball is dropping. This makes defenders extremely nervous and worried, as they have to completely concentrate at the task at hand. One of the main problems when it comes to this is that sometimes defenders confuse themselves by relying on others to cover the open area. When that happens, as it did today, scoring against them from these types of set-pieces is a piece of cake.
The truth is, Valencia is nowhere near where they should be when it comes to defense. Their opponents were much better on both ends of the ball, as they played with meaning in front of their home crowd. Therefore, they are into the quarterfinals of this prestigious cup competition.
Valencia has to either sign new defenders who are not afraid to be a beast in the air or teach the professionals at hand how to stay on task when it matters the most. If not, they will lose important games more often.