Europa League - Valencia defeat PSV in first leg
Valencia conceded two late goals in a 4-2 Europa League last-16 first leg win over PSV Eindhoven at the Mestalla, giving the Dutch club hope ahead of the return fixture.
The Liga outfit powered into a three-goal half-time lead courtesy of a rare strike from Victor Ruiz and the first of two from Roberto Soldado within the space of two minutes in the opening stages, before the striker netted again just before the interval from the penalty spot.
Pablo Piatti appeared to end the tie without the need for a second leg when he made it 4-0 after 11 minutes of the second half, but PSV won a penalty of their own seven minutes from the end which was converted by Ola Toivonen.
And when substitute Georgino Wijnaldum pulled another back for the Eredivisie side in the final minute of regular time, Unai Emery's side had gone from an odds-on quarter final berth to a 2-0 defeat at the Phillips Stadion away from a humiliating Europa League exit.
Before the game was 20 minutes old, the home side had already pillaged their way into dominance via the right wing, guarded by inexperienced left-back Jetro Willems.
The 17-year-old was no match for the likes of Pablo Hernandez and Antonio Barragan, who skipped their way into space time and time again on that same wide channel and, after a series of nearly moments in the opening 10 minutes, Valencia soon raced ahead.
After winning a corner off Marcelo from further venomous attacking down the right, it was the left-hand side from which Daniel Parejo received a short corner back and floated in a delightful cross for defender Ruiz to open the scoring on 11 minutes.
It was only his second goal for the club, and the spotlight was not on him for long as within 60 seconds the lead was doubled by a much more familiar name.
Barragan made a mockery of the back line before taking advantage of acres of space on the right to send in a low centre which Soldado bundled over the line.
The glaring Achilles heel in Eindhoven’s game plan was so evident, even defender Ricardo Costa – a player seldom seen leaving his own half – was able to coast through in the 25th minute, only for a hamstring pull to end the attack as well as his contribution to the match.
Jonas should have tucked away a Soldado flick-on at the far post moments later as PSV continued to look all at sea, though at the other end Tim Matavz came within inches of pulling a goal back after half an hour from a decent Stanislav Manolev cross.
The downhearted Willems was replaced after just 35 minutes by the more experienced Erik Peiters as outgoing PSV coach Fred Rutten cut his losses on a backfiring tactical move, but that did not stop the haemorrhaging back line from allowing Piatti a free header three minutes later that the Argentine really should have buried.
And when Jonas was brought down by Kevin Strootman with three minutes of the half remaining, Soldado stepped up to give his team that third goal they could – and should – have had on one of at least half a dozen prior occasions.
Piatti appeared to render the second leg obsolete when he burst away from a rusty PSV offside trap to latch onto Parejo’s fine raking ball into the penalty area and slot home number four beyond a helpless Andreas Isaksson.
Valencia even had a solid case for a potential fifth on 65 when Soldado was dropped in the box by a frustrated Strootman, who was lucky to evade a yellow card for a similar challenge further down the field on Piatti minutes beforehand.
Toivonen really should have began the comeback trail for the visitors with 20 remaining when home goalkeeper Diego Alves’s clearing punch lacked power and allowed Atiba Hutchinson to square to the perfectly-positioned striker, only for the Swede to fluff the finish completely.
But he did no such thing after Jeremy Mathieu brought down Strootman – now involved in both penalties in the match – and the responsibility fell to Toivonen to pull back a consolation goal on 83 minutes.
Piatti had a chance for a second saved by Isaksson moments later before substitute Juan Bernat slipped before he could pounce on the rebound and surely render the away goal futile.
That miss could prove crucial should the Dutch club mount an offensive in the second leg after another replacement in Wijnaldum stroked home a second for his team from a Zakaria Laybad diagonal ball in the dying embers.