By David Minton at Constant Vanden Stock
Goals from Italian strike duo Bernardo Corradi and Marco Di Vaio gave Valencia CF a UEFA Champions League Group G victory at RSC Anderlecht that keeps them in with a chance of reaching the first knockout round.
The visitors needed all three points to stay in the competition, and were relying on Werder Bremen not defeating FC Internazionale Milano. A 1-1 draw in Germany means that Valencia will progress if they defeat Bremen at the Mestalla on 7 December by a better score than 2-1. Anderlecht, meanwhile, are the only side in the competition without a point and cannot even claim a UEFA Cup berth, despite an impressive display from Christian Wilhelmsson, who scored their equaliser.
Valencia's task was complicated by a worsening injury crisis. Playmaker Pablo Aimar was a late addition to the Spanish champions' casualty list, allowing Di Vaio the opportunity to end his ten-hour wait for a goal. Defender Carlos Marchena, meanwhile, damaged his hamstring in training on the eve of the match and was replaced by David Navarro. Rubén Baraja and Francisco Rufete were also restored by Claudio Ranieri, his team shorn of eight full internationals.
Although Valencia's European form had an effect on the away supporters' turnout, the home fans were out in force and nearly had something to celebrate inside two minutes when Aruna Dindane headed off target after a Wilhelmsson cross.
They were made to pay for that miss when Valencia took a 19th-minute lead against the run of play. Curro Torres found himself in acres of space on the right after springing the offside trap. He sent in a low cross which was deftly flicked in at the near post by Corradi, beating Anderlecht goalkeeper Daniel Zitka, back in the side at the expense of Tristan Peersman.
Five minutes later the home side were level. Marco Caneira fouled Aruna in the Valencia box, and although Pär Zetterberg's penalty was saved by Santiago Cañizares, who got down well to his right, Wilhelmsson reacted the fastest and struck the rebound into the roof of the net.
Seconds after the equaliser, lively Swedish international Wilhelmsson, who began on the right but switched across the forward line to good effect, tested Cañizares with a powerful drive. At the other end Zitka dealt comfortably with a Di Vaio header and Mohamed Sissoko was wildly off target with a hopeful shot from distance.
Di Vaio strikes
Di Vaio's barren time in front of goal came to an end three minutes into the second half in scintillating fashion. Corradi lofted the ball over the Anderlecht rearguard to his fellow Italian, who controlled the ball on his chest and then slammed a volley past Zitka. It was the striker's first goal since scoring against Real Betis Balompié on 2 October.
Anderlecht's players faced a test of their desire to avoid becoming the first Belgian side in Champions League history to finish the group stage without a point. Wilhelmsson continued to provide their major threat and another dangerous low cross lacked only a finish from Aruna.
Home coach Hugo Broos introduced an extra forward in Mbo Mpenza, recovered from a calf strain, in place of central defender Glen De Boeck as the home side chased the game in vain. Time ran out, and Valencia are guaranteed at least a campaign in the UEFA Cup - which they won last season - in the new year.