A hat-trick from Fernando Morientes helped Valencia CF open their UEFA Champions League campaign with an impressive Group D victory at Olympiacos CFP, although the Spanish side left it late to seal the points in Athens.
The former Real Madrid CF striker scored twice in quick succession at the end of the first half after Michalis Konstantinou had shot the home team ahead. However Valencia, who had never won in three previous visits to Greece, were pegged back by Nery Alberto Castillo's equaliser midway through the second period and seemed to be heading for a draw until Raúl Albiol restored their advantage from a corner with five minutes remaining and Morientes added the finishing touch in the final minute, heading in another set-piece.
Olympiacos began the match in aggressive mood with Castillo forcing a corner with a powerful run after just 30 seconds. The best early chance came at the other end, however, Morientes setting up Albiol on the edge of the area only for the defender to fire straight at Antonios Nikopolidis. The hosts responded by creating a great opening of their own as Rivaldo's free-kick picked out Abdeslam Ouaddou but his glancing near-post header flashed wide.
Valencia keeper Santiago Cañizares had to be alert again to gather a dangerous Predrag Djordjević cross and parry a Rivaldo free-kick two minutes later as Olympiacos started to apply pressure. The Greek champions' adventure was finally rewarded in the 28th minute when Konstantinou opened the scoring, controlling Ieroklis Stoltidis's superb chipped pass on his chest before guiding a low shot past Cañizares to spark jubilant scenes among home supporters.
Their joy proved to be short-lived, however, as Morientes replied for the visitors six minutes later, turning in David Villa's low left-wing centre from point-blank range. The No9 turned the tie on its head six minutes before the interval as Miguel Ángel Angulo galloped on to a defence-splitting pass to bear down on the unprotected Nikopolidis and, although the Olympiacos keeper blocked the initial effort with his legs, the rebound fell perfectly for Morientes to clip in.
The Mestalla outfit looked likely to add to their advantage as the second half kicked off, Villa passing up two opportunities in three minutes by twice shooting straight at Nikopolidis. Cañizares then made a fantastic fingertip stop to touch Konstantinou's header around the post but the custodian was helpless six minutes past the hour when Djordjević's long ball found Castillo to pick out the corner of the net with a low effort.
Olympiacos might have been in front in the 76th minute as Castillo's commitment created a chance for Rivaldo, but the Brazilian blasted wildly with the goal at his mercy. That was to prove costly when a corner broke to Albiol on the edge of the box and the defender thundered in an unstoppable drive, before Morientes climbed above Ouaddou to nod in David Silva's left-wing corner with seconds left. Valencia welcome AS Roma to Spain on Matchday 2, when Olympiacos visit FC Shakhtar Donetsk.