Valencia surrendered a lead to Barcelona with only six minutes on the clock at the Mestalla Stadium as the teams drew 1-1 in the second leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final, with Barca winning 8-1 on aggregate on Wednesday.
A goal from Alvaro Negredo broke the deadlock for Los Che shortly before the interval, but a late strike by teenager Wilfrid Kaptoum saved the Blaugrana on the night.
The contest was an awful spectacle as fans stayed away in droves. Valencia coach Gary Neville's tenure continues to fester as he searches for his first victory in charge.
Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar were all given the night off by manager Luis Enrique, who omitted the three superstars from his match squad. Neville made eight changes to his side that lost to Real Betis in La Liga, freshening up his options against the depleted treble winners.
Journalist Rik Sharma commented on the discourse outside of the Mestalla before kick-off:
Small band of angry fans greet team bus. "Bye bye Gary Neville, next coach" reads one banner pic.twitter.com/YNb9Q05dQ1— Rik Sharma (@riksharma_) February 10, 2016
Group of fans outside now, chanting. Mainly about the board and the players ('mercenaries!') but not about Neville pic.twitter.com/2EiHB70RMK— Rik Sharma (@riksharma_) February 10, 2016
Barca dominated the early exchanges as midfield maestro Ivan Rakitic pulled the strings while surrounded by a wealth of talented youth.
There was a strange atmosphere at the Mestalla as the game progressed, with Neville's men residing seven goals down, and Eurosport shared a photo of the near-empty stadium:
Valencia fans - inspired by the antics at Anfield - have staged a full-match walkout at the Mestalla pic.twitter.com/kp6nbbbZNV— Eurosport UK (@Eurosport_UK) February 10, 2016
Blaugrana player Munir El Haddadi looked impressive as he drifted in from the right, with the 20-year-old often beating his marker to bear down on goal.
Valencia threatened intermittently as they attempted to counter-attack against their illustrious opponents, and Negredo was expertly denied by Jeremy Mathieu's clever block.
It was the hosts who broke the deadlock six minutes before the break, as Negredo pounced for Los Che.
The striker skipped past goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, getting a lucky break as the ball rebounded off him, and Negredo slotted away the easiest of finishes.
ESPN's Dermot Corrigan called the action:
1-0 Valencia. Negredo sent completely clear on break, hits Ter Stegen with first effort, but bundles loose ball over line in end.— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) February 10, 2016
Valencia goal kinda came out of nothing, Barca were coming back from a corner and long ball over top caught em all out.— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) February 10, 2016
WhoScored.com shared the vital statistics at half-time, displaying that Barca's young side kept the ball better than Neville's team:
Valencia 1-0 Barcelona HT: Shots(OT) 6(3) - 6(0), Possession 33% - 67%, Rating 6.68 - 6.18 https://t.co/GyJzLjo81q— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) February 10, 2016
Valencia 1-0 Barcelona HT: Player ratings pic.twitter.com/71UnmK99tn— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) February 10, 2016
Valencia still had six goals to find to achieve a result, and the hopelessness of their task reflected in their lifeless play.
The second half opened with a void of action, as both teams went through the motions in order to achieve the inevitable.
Corrigan was not impressed by what he was watching and, citing MisterChip, confirmed the dire attendance:
HT Valencia 1-0 Barca. Game about as exciting as expected... neither team pushing themselves too far...— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) February 10, 2016
Just 16,400 Valencia fans at 55,000 seater Mestalla tonight for Copa second leg [via @2010MisterChip ]— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) February 10, 2016
The match petered out into a nonevent, as the tie appeared to labour towards Neville's first win in charge of his club.
However, the victory was chalked off with only six minutes on the clock as 19-year-old sub Kaptoum stole a draw for the Catalans.
The Cameroonian midfielder had only been on the pitch for two minutes before beautifully placing his shot into the bottom corner.
Sharma commented on Neville's unbelievable luck:
Poor old Gary Neville. Kaptoum saves Luis Enrique's unbeaten run - which he didn't care about - and stops Neville getting a 'symbolic' win— Rik Sharma (@riksharma_) February 10, 2016
In a game that had no meaning, the draw will once again sting the English coach, whose days in Spain appear numbered.
Valencia could not beat the youngsters of Barcelona despite holding a lead into the final moments, and it's back to the drawing board for Los Che as they look to salvage their season and their pride.
Enrique was content at the end of the contest and explained his thoughts about progressing towards further silverware, per the club's official website:
At Barca we’re very used to playing in finals. But it is very difficult to get this far and we’re really looking forward to it. It says a lot for this club’s ability to reinvent itself. We’re delighted.
We changed the system to give a chance to the players that don’t get too many. They generally did well in terms of intensity.
The team looked very complete even though I tried out some different positions. We had no out and out centre forward, but with Rakitic playing in the middle of the attack things worked well.
The record is just numbers. So let’s see if those numbers are good enough to bring us titles.
Barca are expected to face Sevilla in the final, who hold a four-goal advantage as they go into their semi-final second-leg clash with Celta Vigo on Thursday.