(IN THE PHOTO: a team photo before Valencia-Milan)
MILAN – 50 thousand fans flocked to the Mestalla to watch Valencia narrowly edge Milan for the 43rd Naranja Trophy.
Filippo Inzaghi was upbeat despite the defeat, "We played well, we controlled the match, although it was clear we suffered at times. At this moment I am looking at the individual performances. We lost two goals that could have been avoided, we know we must improve. I have understood that Honda could do well in that role, he has the right quality. In attack we had only a few options, yet we still had two excellent chances through El Shaarawy and Essien and I don’t recall any great saves by Diego Lopez. This evening we were on a par with Valencia. When you face these teams it is difficult to appreciate that in less than a month we have reached their level because Valencia are aiming high this season. We accept the face we lost, but compared to three weeks ago I saw another team out there. We want to dictate the play, especially in Italy when we’ll be up against teams that are weaker than us, and when the season gets underway we won’t allow these defensive lapses to happen again. Next week I’ll have a full squad and already against Juventus it will be different. Our key match is against Lazio and I would have been less satisfied if we had won by chance, after all it was still only a friendly, Serie A is different. This way we know we must improve. The goal from the free kick was a training scheme, but Honda struck the ball well. Menez is able to fill any of the three roles in attack, and I preferred to play him as a false number nine because that suits him well in my opinion. I am happy with how he played after the injury set back two days into his adventure here.”
The Milan coach launched Giampaolo Pazzini as centre forward in the absence of Mario Balotelli. Pazzini was joined by Stefan El Shaarawy and Keisuke Honda in the frontline and the trio quickly caused the home defence problems, with El Shaarawy the most lively.
However, despite Milan's positive start it was Valencia that opened the scoring on 18 minutes. A mistake in defence by Cristian Zapata allowed Alacer to intercept and lob Diego Lopez from 40 metres out.
Milan responded and drew level less than 10 minutes later. A sublime freekick from Honda left Diego Alves helpless in the Valencia goal.
The Spaniards finished the first half strongly. Zapata was on hand to clear off the goal-line with Diego Lopez beaten on 30 minutes, then a Parejo free kick went just over the crossbar before Rodrigo evaded the Rossoneri defence to drill a shot past Lopez in the 39th minute.
El Shaarawy thought he had found the equaliser on the stroke of half time but Barragan blocked his goal-bound shot.
Both coaches altered their line-ups in the second half. Before Inzaghi brought on Alex and Jeremy Menez, another Milan new signing Lopez saved well from Rodrigo.
Even though the tempo of the encounter dipped as a consquence of all the substitutions, Pablo Armero made an impressive contribution blocking a Feghouli effort one minute into his Milan debut.
The Rossoneri pushed on in search of a late equaliser. A Menez shot finished wide and an Essien header was well saved by Yoel but Valencia held on to lift the Naranja Trophy.
VALENCIA: Diego Alves (Yoel 58'); Barragan, Rubén Vezo (Mustafi 58'), Otamendi, Gaya (Orban 58'); Fuego, Parejo (Roberto 81'), Gomez (Guardado 81'), Piatti (Feghouli 52'); Alcacer (De Paul 52'), Rodrigo (Gil 81').
Subs Not Used: Domenech, Joao Pereira, Araujo.
Coach Nuno Esperito Santo.
MILAN: Diego Lopez; Abate (Mexes 82'), Bonera, Zapata (Alex 60'), Albertazzi (Armero 71'); Poli (Mastalli 82'), Cristante, Muntari (Essien 71'); Honda, Pazzini (Menez 60'), El Shaarawy.
Subs Not Used: Abbiati, Agazzi, Zaccardo, Modic, Pinato, Mastour.
Coach Filippo Inzaghi.