Fri, Aug 21, 2015 - Page 20 News List

Monaco leak three in Valencia

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AFP, VALENCIA, Spain

AS Monaco midfielder Nabil Dirar, and Valencia defenders Ruben Vezo, center, and Jose Gaya vie for the ball during their Champions League first-leg playoff at the Estadio Mestalla in Valencia, Spain, on Wednesday.

Photo: AFP

Goals from Rodrigo, Dani Parejo and Sofiane Feghouli at the Estadio Mestalla on Wednesday handed Valencia a 3-1 advantage ahead of the second leg of their Champions League play-off against AS Monaco.

The Spanish side got off to the perfect start when Rodrigo tapped home the opener after only four minutes, but Monaco rallied and leveled early in the second half through Mario Pasalic.

However, last season’s quarter-finalists were undone by poor defending as Parejo’s deflected effort and a late strike from Feghouli put Valencia in the driving seat for a return to the group stages for the first time in three years.

The sides are to meet again in the principality on Tuesday next week.

“I value the victory. It was a good game and fundamental for us to win today,” Valencia boss Nuno Espirito Santo said. “It is a game that has been in our heads since the last league game in Almeria.

“I value the effort of the players and the support of the fans,” he said.

However, Monaco boss Leonardo Jardim said his side deserved more and blasted the performance of English referee Mark Clattenburg.

“Unfortunately, last season in the quarter-finals there were many refereeing errors,” he said. “To happen again in the play-offs is not positive for UEFA, for Monaco, for France and UEFA ought to respect France as they do other countries.”

Monaco were without Joao Moutinho and Layvin Kurzawa through injury, and Kurzawa’s replacement Elderson endured a torrid time as Valencia got off to a flying start.

The Nigerian allowed Feghouli in behind to head a cross from the left back across goal and that left Rodrigo with the easiest of finishes to put the hosts in front.

The visitors had a great chance to strike back almost immediately in an open start to the game, but Anthony Martial failed to connect and the ball was gratefully clutched by Matthew Ryan.

Valencia’s speed in the wide areas was a constant danger as Feghouli just failed to pick out Paco Alcacer with another burst past Elderson before the Spanish international could not stretch far enough to touch home a wonderful delivery from Jose Gaya.

Monaco are a much-changed side from the one who reached the last eight last season, but they grew into the game as the first half wore on and were unfortunate not to be level at the break.

Ryan enjoyed his first big moment in a Valencia shirt just after the half-hour mark as the Australia international turned Bernardo Silva’s drive onto the post from a narrow angle.

Martial found the net moments later, but he was flagged for offside.

The French side’s persistence was rewarded just four minutes into the second period when a powerful run and cross by Martial was only partially cleared and Pasalic timed his run into the box perfectly to slot home the rebound.

Ryan had to be alert once more minutes later to divert another Martial effort to safety.

Santo introduced Pablo Piatti for Rodrigo de Paul in a bid to turn the tide and the Argentine winger set up Valencia’s second with virtually his first touch.

Piatti turned a looping cross from the right back into the danger zone and Parejo’s deflected effort left Danijel Subasic helpless.

Valencia were coping well with the relentless tempo of the game given it was their first competitive match of the season and Parejo could have doubled his tally at the end of a flowing counterattack, but he fired Feghouli’s cross into the stands.

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