Valencia CF have it all to do after a stirring performance earned Werder Bremen a 1-1 draw at the Mestalla.
Torsten Frings' first-half penalty was cancelled out by Juan Mata after the break but Valencia must play the second leg next week without Éver Banega, who was sent off, and Pablo Hernández, whose booking has triggered a suspension. Worse still, David Villa asked to be taken off seven minutes from time with a shoulder injury.
From the outset it was a magnificent match. Wave after wave of German attacks and the pace and invention of Mesut Özil and Marko Marin tied the Valencia back four in knots, dampening the partisan atmosphere and giving Bremen control. The breakthrough came with a 24th-minute spot-kick, Frings marking his 100th match in UEFA competition with a goal.
Before the tide turned, Bremen could have struck again. Marin tore past Ángel Dealbert and was one on one with César Sánchez when the veteran pulled off a wonderful save. Five minutes before the break he emulated that, this time keeping out a fierce Marin shot. Banega then cracked in a drive which Tim Wiese just managed to push onto his right hand post. It summed up Valencia's night, with Davids Silva and Villa both conspiring to miss relatively simple chances as the frustration grew.
Some of it apparently boiled over, with Banega dismissed after the break, meaning Valencia have now had a man sent off in each of their three competitive meetings with Bremen. However, their pride was stung. Less than 120 seconds after the 55th-minute red card, Unai Emery's side were level. Pablo Hernández crossed from the right, Silva controlled and had a goal-bound effort blocked. Mata darted in and stabbed the loose ball home – his fourth of this UEFA Europa League campaign. César and Wiese each needed to make exceptional blocks before the night ended with the tie tilted in Bremen's favour.
©UEFA.com 1998-2016. All rights reserved.