KRC Genk marked their return to the UEFA Champions League with a hard-earned point at home to Valencia CF in an entertaining Group E contest.
The Belgian titleholders' only previous appearance in the competition came nine years ago yet they showed few nerves on their comeback and might have snatched all three points late on, an acrobatic stop from Diego Alves denying Jeroen Simaeys. Adil Rami had hit the Genk crossbar with a spectacular overhead effort as the match stepped up a gear in the final 20 minutes, but neither side could fashion a breakthrough.
Genk were forced on the back foot for long periods of the first half although they started the brighter and threatened twice in the opening exchanges, Anele Ngcongca having a promising effort deflected wide. At the other end, Pablo Piatti burst clear down the Valencia left but Roberto Soldado was unable to turn in his cross.
The latter incident proved a more accurate guide to the remainder of the half as Valencia's 4-5-1 formation, with Soldado the sole striker, gave Víctor Ruiz and Piatti licence to push forward. Jérémy Mathieu almost made the most of space afforded to him on the left, only a fine Dugary Ndabashinze tackle inside the penalty area denied him a shot at goal.
The visitors' best chance of the first period came with nine minutes of it left, Piatti drawing an excellent save from László Köteles at the base of his left-hand post.
New Genk coach Mario Been had promised to be bold on his appointment, however, and his team emerged after half-time with renewed energy. Jelle Vossen brought a good save from Alves with a shot from the edge of the penalty area within seconds while Ndabashinze and Thomas Buffel both looked lively, Alves palming away the latter's dangerous corner.
Once again, though, it was Valencia who carved out the clearer chances. On the hour Soldado's pass from the right picked out Daniel Parejo and Köteles had to make an excellent stop to keep out the midfielder's fierce volley. Twelve minutes later Rami's overhead effort beat the goalkeeper but the crossbar came to the home side's rescue.
Valencia substitute Pablo Hernández then had a low shot deflected wide before Alves ensured both sides would leave with a point, brilliantly blocking Simaey's close-range shot. The Belgian outfit visit Bayer 04 Leverkusen on matchday two, when Valencia welcome Chelsea FC.
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