Prandelli under pressure as Valencia fails to win again
MADRID: Less than two months after taking over at Valencia, Cesare Prandelli is already hearing the boos at Mestalla Stadium.
The former Italy coach and his players were jeered Sunday after Valencia was held to a 1-1 draw by last-place Granada in the Spanish league, a result that extended the club's four-game winless streak and kept it near the relegation zone.
Prandelli arrived amid big expectations after being hired in October by Singapore investor Peter Lim. But following a 2-1 win in his debut against Sporting Gijon, the team has lost twice and drawn twice.
The draw against Granada, which is yet to win a game after 12 rounds, made a predictable impact on the home supporters.
"When things don't go well, the fans will pressure you, it's fair," Prandelli said. "We must remain calm. The problem is not only psychological, but when you have a clear mind you have more courage."
Valencia is 15th in the 20-team standings with 11 points, only two clear of the relegation zone.
"I'm responsible for the team," Prandelli said. "The players should not think negatively. They should not lower their heads, only with courage can we improve."
Belgian midfielder Mehdi Carcela-Gonzalez put Granada ahead in first-half injury time and Nani equalised for the hosts two minutes into the second half. Valencia created a few scoring opportunities after that, but was unable to take them.
"This point means nothing to us. We need to win games to leave the position we are in," Argentine midfielder Enzo Perez said. "We need to unite more than ever to try to overcome this situation. We can't keep making these silly mistakes. It's going to be difficult to get the results we need if this keeps happening."
Valencia is the last team other than Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Atletico to win the league title, back in 2004.
Madrid opened a four-point lead over Barcelona on Saturday by beating crosstown rival Atletico Madrid 3-0 with a hat trick by Cristiano Ronaldo at the Vicente Calderon Stadium. Barcelona was held to a 0-0 draw at home by Malaga, while Sevilla is third after rallying to beat Deportivo 3-2 in La Coruna.
Atletico, which has lost three of its last four matches, is in fifth place, nine points behind Real Madrid.
Athletic Bilbao 1, Villarreal 0
Raul Garcia scored in the 67th minute to help seventh-place Athletic Bilbao beat Villarreal and end a three-match winless streak.
Villarreal could have finished the weekend in third place if it had won in Bilbao, but the loss left the club two points behind Sevilla.
Villarreal is tied on 22 points with Real Sociedad, which defeated Sporting 3-1 in Gijon for its fourth win in a row.
Alaves 0, Espanyol 1
Espanyol extended its unbeaten streak to six matches thanks to Gerard Moreno's 81st-minute winner at Alaves.
The result gave the club from Barcelona its second win in three matches and kept it without a loss since a 2-0 defeat at Celta Vigo in September.
It reached 12th place in the 20-team standings, two spots ahead of Alaves, which has lost three of its last four matches.