Valencia CF are through to the second group stage of the UEFA Champions League after clinching top spot in Group B with an impressive win at Liverpool FC.
Francisco Rufete scored the only goal on 34 minutes, but it was no more than Valencia deserved after taking the game to Liverpool throughout the first half, and then proving more than a match for all the home side's attacking ideas in the second period.
Liverpool made just one change from the team that won 3-1 at FC Spartak Moskva, with midfield player Steven Gerrard replacing forward Milan Baroš allowing Emile Heskey to partner Michael Owen up front.
The Spanish side had beaten Liverpool 2-0 on Matchday One with their slick passing game and the first half tonight was an action replay as returning attackers Pablo Aimar and John Carew constantly worried the home defence and both Curro Torres and Rufete tortured the Premiership leaders down the right flank.
Kily González on the other Valencia wing almost put his side ahead on ten minutes, but his looping cross swung on to the bar. Owen shot wide soon afterwards after being set free in the area by Salif Diao, but Valencia ought to have gone ahead on the half-hour when Carew headed down a corner to Aimar, who laid the ball off to Rubén Baraja. But the Spanish international's shot from four metres sailed over Jerzy Dudek and into the stands.
Yet the visitors did take the lead four minutes later with a fine goal. Curro Torres and Rufete combined well yet again on the right and got behind the home defence. Carew received the ball from Curro Torres's cross and laid the ball back to Rufete whose shot from the edge of the box deflected in off Sami Hyypiä.
Stand-in Valencia captain Santiago Cañizares had to make a diving save from Owen soon after the goal, but the away side went in at the break confident of progress.
Owen was denied again by Cañizares two minutes into the second half, as Liverpool looked to attack and not long after Dietmar Hamann had a header cleared off the line by Curro Torres.
However, Liverpool began to be frustrated as Valencia, with Carlos Marchena in for suspended skipper Roberto Ayala, shut up shop to hold on to their lead, and the visitors looked strong on the break, Baraja firing wide and Miguel Angulo having a shot well-saved by Dudek.
Cañizares made good late saves from Hamman and substitute Baroš, but time ran out for Liverpool, who will now hope that FC Basel do not win on Tuesday at Spartak. If they do, Liverpool must win at Basel on Matchday Six.
One thing is for sure, though, Valencia have proved worthy group winners, as their two impressive victories against Liverpool showed.
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