Czech midfielder Karel Piták capped a sparkling display with a 73rd-minute winner as FC Salzburg surprised Valencia CF in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League third qualifying round tie.
Valencia, runners-up in this competition twice at the start of the decade, will have to improve significantly if they are to overturn their 1-0 deficit in the return leg on 22 August and qualify for the group stage. On an evening where coach Giovanni Trapattoni did not include a single Austrian player in his starting XI, the Spanish visitors were undone largely by the excellence of Piták and his compatriot Patrik Jezek.
Salzburg may have appeared nervous in the opening exchanges but it did not take Piták long to trouble a Valencia back line missing Spanish international Carlos Marchena. With 17 minutes played the right midfielder brushed past his markers and into the box, only to be denied by Santiago Cañizares.
Two minutes later Piták directed a sublime pass towards Alexander Zickler, but the German forward narrowly missed the ball with a sliding effort. Valencia were struggling to contain Piták but he was not the only threat. Compatriot Jezek and Niko Kovač further underlined Salzburg's intent with strikes from distance around the half-hour. At the other end, Fernando Morientes went close to putting Valencia ahead against the run of play but his left-footed volley was blocked by home goalkeeper Timo Ochs.
Jezek pulling strings
Salzburg continued to press in the second half, albeit now it was Jezek, not Piták, who was pulling the strings. He saw a shot from inside the area blocked by Raúl Albiol and then tried to tee up Piták only for David Navarro to thwart the Czech pair with a timely interception. Although Valencia coach Quique Sánchez Flores sent on Spanish international striker David Villa, it was the Austrian side who made the breakthrough with 17 minutes remaining with a goal made in the Czech Republic. Jezek sent over a cross and Piták was in the right place to head past Cañizares and send the 15,000-strong home crowd into raptures.