Rafael Benítez's Valencia CF take a 1-0 lead back to Spain after cruising past AIK Solna in their UEFA Cup first round, first-leg match thanks to a powerful finish from Brazilian forward Ricardo Oliveira.
The 2002/03 UEFA Champions League quarter-finalists had seemed content to play out the game in first gear, having rested the likes of Pablo Aimar and Santiago Cañizares, and will now be confident of progressing to the later stages.
Despite fielding a defensive formation, with Daniel Hoch as the lone striker, AIK had some good early chances. The best of these was a Stefan Ishizaki flick that forced Valencia goalkeeper Andrés Palop into a good save.
However, Valencia soon exerted control, and their back-four began to smother the solitary Hoch. This disparity meant that chances were few and far between, with neither side really getting on top of the game and both giving possession away too easily.
However, Valencia, who reached the last eight of this competition two seasons ago, soon stepped up the pace in the second half, and put AIK firmly on the back foot. With Mohamed Sissoko, Juan Sánchez and Oliveira to the fore, the visitors began to move the ball around with a swagger, and AIK were forced to chase.
After an hour, AIK did manage to fashion a chance though, as the impressive Norwegian midfield player Pa-Modou Kah cut inside from the left and sent a powerful shot towards goal, which Palop saved expertly.
Five minutes later, Valencia had the lead. Sánchez played a clever through-ball that was seized on by Oliveira in the box. The Brazilian forward shot powerfully and accurately past the goalkeeper and into the back of the net. AIK tried desperately to respond. Just two minutes after the goal, Kah went close from a corner, before Ishizaki sent a stinging drive in, only to be denied by Palop once more.
No way through
Despite their best efforts, AIK could not find a way through, and Valencia showed all their European experience as they regained control in the final stages. Only Kah and Ishizaki seemed capable of getting an equaliser and even the introduction of Karl Corneliusson could not change that.