A double from David Villa was enough to give Valencia CF a comfortable 2-0 victory over Group D strugglers FC Shakhtar Donetsk.
Villa's second and third goals in the UEFA Champions League helped the Primera División team dominate their Ukrainian rivals, but despite Shakhtar ending the match with ten men Valencia could not add to their total in the second half. The clubs will go into their rematch in Donetsk on 31 October at opposite extremes of their section and separated by eight points.
The fact it took a defensive error to give Valencia the lead was surprising as Mircea Lucescu's team followed a shrewd game plan from the kick-off and looked assured. With Anatoliy Tymoschuk displaying typical calm in holding midfield, Shakhtar used possession carefully and looked to hit on the break. Indeed, both the Shakhtar captain, who cracked a 25-metre drive just wide, and Fernandinho, whose shot was well saved by Santiago Cañizares, threatened to give the visitors the advantage.
But Valencia bided their time and clinically exploited the only mistake that the visitors' defence made in the first 45 minutes. With just over a quarter of an hour to the break, Valencia forward Mario Regueiro held the ball up with his back to goal and, as Vyacheslav Sviderskiy tried to deal with the situation, his team-mate Leonardo intervened. But the young Brazilian merely nudged the ball into the path of Villa and the Spain striker danced around Stipe Pletikosa to stab the ball in.
Villa on fire
In reality, long before the Ballon D'Or candidate added his second it had been the David Villa show. As early as the fourth minute he slipped past two markers and fed Joaquín Sánchez, who drove a weak effort straight at Pletikosa's feet. Joaquín, whom coach Quique Sánchez Flores admits is still settling at the Mestalla, returned the compliment before the break.
Icing the cake
The flow towards Pletikosa's goal had remained steady, without ever reaching a crescendo, and the Croatian international had to dive full length to palm away an 18th-minute Villa free-kick which was bending in at the right-hand post. The icing on the cake came as the half was entering added time, when Joaquín found himself blocked in on the right but managed to create half a metre of space and float a long cross to the back post. Pletikosa stretched but could not reach and only succeeded in tipping the ball on to Villa and the No7 nodded in for 2-0.
Lucescu's half-time changes altered the pattern of the game. With Tomáš Hübschman introduced to allow Tymoschuk to man-mark Regueiro, and Brandão adding menace in place of Julius Aghahowa, Shakhtar were a different proposition. Ciprian Marica and Brandão received more possession but when the Romanian finally beat his full-back and cut the ball across goal, the Brazilian could not convert a fine opportunity to bring his side back into contention. That miss looked still more costly when Sviderskiy collected his second caution following an elbow on Emiliano Moretti.