Goals from Roberto Soldado and Jonas, plus an own goal by Paulao, gave Valencia all three points against Champions League rivals Real Betis at the Mestalla on Saturday night.
This fixture saw two very contrasting teams take on each other, both competing in the race for the desired last Champions League spot. These teams could not have been more different in terms of form: while Betis had won two of their last three games coming into Saturday's fixture, Los Che had not won in three.
A win for either side would leave them in poll position to take up the last place for Europe’s most prestigious club competition next year.
The match started off in a very cagey fashion, the first real chance falling to Valencia’s very own Tino Costa with eight minutes on the clock, when he forced a good save from Adrian at the near post to stop the opening goal falling to the home side.
Then in the 15th minute, referee César Muniz judged Antonio Amaya had brought down Soldado inside the box. It was deemed a goalscoring opportunity and the centre-back was subsequently forced off. Soldado then tucked away the penalty to open the scoring, 1-0 Valencia.
On second viewing Soldado was probably offside to start the move and to makes things worse for Pepe Mel and Betis, the foul was actually outside the area meaning the penalty should not has been awarded.
Valencia cruised through to the 30-minute mark and the game started to get scrappy with Betis looking to try and get some sort of foothold in the game. Betis' leading goalscorer Ruben Castro tried to provide it with his shot from 40 yards swerving but never really troubling Diego Alves who could easily catch it from under the bar.
Last-ditch defending was what kept the score down, with Betis having to throw bodies in front of Andres Guardado’s cross to stop the oncoming Jonas pouncing. Minutes later Soldado came close to connecting to Ever Banega's cross, but was a fraction too slow to get to the touch required to make the score 2-0 on the 36-minute mark.
At 1-0 down, all Betis could fashion were 30-yard strikes which Alves would happily pick up. Valencia's Adil Rami started walking a tight rope, picking up a silly yellow for a two-footed challenge that easily could have been a red. He then climbed to win a header which could have been considered dangerous play.
Five minutes before half time, Castro should have made it 1-1 when a goal-bound shot was blocked valiantly by Rami, who probably shouldn’t have still been on the pitch. The score remained 1-0 and Betis may have felt nothing would go their way on the night.
Then, out of nowhere, Betis won a free-kick on the edge of the area which resulted in Benat coming extremely close to levelling the scores - but his shot was slightly too high.
Valencia boss Ernesto Valverde would have been the happier manager come half-time with his team controlling the game with a comfortable lead. However, he would have felt another goal was required to secure the points for his side. Both teams started to have trouble stringing passes together, leading to a very messy game.
The first real chance in the second-half fell to Benat, whose floated free-kick just needed a glancing header to deceive Brazilian Alves. Canas’ 20-yard strike almost caught Alves napping, but the shot was always swerving the wrong way.
Betis seemed to have regained some sort of composure in the game in the second-half with Valencia unable to put this game to bed, squandering every chance they got.
It seemed anything Betis would be able to fashion would have to come through Benat, who delivered the ball into the box on numerous occasions only to have it ping around like a pinball machine with Valencia’s defence swiping to try and get contact on it to clear their lines.
Jonas almost doubled the score when a cross eluded him and almost the 'keeper, who spilt it only to realise no one was poaching for Valencia, Adrian would have felt very relieved to see his error not punished. It appears if Soldado had been on the pitch he may have put that one away - he doesn’t have the nickname ‘hitman’ for no reason.
By the 82nd-minute it looked like Valencia's jagged approach had stopped them from doubling their lead when Costa squared only to see nobody fancy a shot and eventually, from eight yards out, the attack petered out with Sofiane Feghouli losing the ball for the second time in a matter of minutes.
Without their talisman and leader Soldado, Valencia looked like a totally different team with no attacking menace to speak of.
On the 85rd-minute mark, though, a beautiful cross from youngster Sergio Canales led to a very undeserved second goal for Valencia. The ball was put out of the reach of Adrian by his very own defender, Canales didn’t bother to claim it, and Paulao turned it into his own net.
Again, out of nowhere, Jonas produced a moment of genius: skilfully passing two defenders and curling the ball out of keeper Adrian’s reach.
It was the last kick of the game, which meant Valencia had recorded a 3-0 victory. The three points puts them up to fourth place, a point ahead of Malaga who were beaten 2-0 by Espanyol on Sunday.
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