Valencia CF are well on course to progress from the UEFA Champions League first group stage, after beating FC Spartak Moskva 3-0 in Moscow. Unsurprisingly, their coach, Rafael Benítez, was a happy man after the game, declaring the victory "a decisive step forward".
Whereas last week Valencia's 2-0 home victory against Liverpool FC was based on a breathtaking attacking performance, today Benítez's side soaked up all Spartak had to offer, and then swept forward with frightening pace.
Impressive first goal
It was that swift counterattacking that produced the visitors' first two goals. Miguel Angulo's sixth-minute opener came from a move begun by Curro Torres in the Valencia penalty box. He fed Rubén Baraja near the halfway line and the midfield player's high ball into the box was chested on by Pablo Aimar in the direction of Angulo, who lifted the ball over veteran Spartak goalkeeper Stanislav Cherchessov.
After this setback, Spartak actually gave as good as Valencia for the next hour of play, Aleksandr Danishevski working hard up front for the home side, but found no way past the visitors' defence. "After the first goal possibly we relaxed and Spartak produced some good play, and it was hard to predict how the match would go," said Benítez. "However, after the second goal Spartak were broken down and everything became simple."
The decisive second goal came, tellingly, after a Spartak corner broke down 19 minutes from time, substitute Francisco Rufete running on to a long ball on the right, and crossing for fellow replacement Mista to score.
Two goals down and facing their 13th Champions League match without victory, Spartak seemed to lose heart, and conceded a third when Cherchessov missed a Jerry Tchuisse backpass. The ball hit the post, but Aimar was on hand to collect and cross for Juan Sánchez, another substitute, to tap in.
Benítez was modest about the success of his second-half substitutions. "They were for tactical reasons, I just wanted to try some new schemes," he said, adding how pleased he was that all five of Valencia's goals in the competition had come from different players. "It shows that not only our can our forwards score, but our midfield can too."
'Our fans must be shocked'
Spartak's assistant coach, Viktor Samokhin, had hard words for his team, as they suffered their second Group B defeat after last week's loss at FC Basel. "This was an unmotivated performance," he said. "They showed none of the will to win that was needed. Our fans must be shocked after this match."
And Samokhin did not accept Valencia's greater resources as an excuse, saying: "Our squad is big enough. Valencia only needed to play at 50 to 70 per cent of their strength, because that was enough to win."
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