A stunning headed winner from David Navarro four minutes into injury-time ensured Valencia CF will take a slender lead to Istanbul next Wednesday after twice trailing to a spirited Besiktas JK side in the first leg of this UEFA Cup third-round tie.
After twice leading, Besiktas looked to have earned at least a draw. Two stunning first-half strikes from Daniel Pancu and great goalkeeping from Óscar Córdoba had kept the Turkish league leaders in the match as Valencia, boasting seven changes from the side that had lost to FC Barcelona at the weekend, pressed from the outset.
Ilie on form
Twice against the run of play Besiktas took the lead and twice Valencia struck back. On 16 minutes Córdoba saved brilliantly at the feet of Miguel Angulo, but within seconds Valencia had fallen behind. Adrian Ilie, back against his old side, spread the play from left to right to pick out Pancu's dart into the box and, after bringing the ball under control, the Romanian fired past Andrés Palop in the Valencia goal.
Undeterred, Valencia went straight on to the attack and drew level on 25 minutes, when Mohamed Sissoko rose to head in Fabián Canobbio's corner. With Pablo Aimar, on his return from injury, beginning to control play in midfield Valencia looked likely to go on and win comfortably, but Córdoba saved sharply from Ruben Baraja and Mista in quick succession to keep the scores level.
Something had to give, but surprisingly the next goal came at the other end. On 39 minutes Pancu was sent clear near the halfway line and he stole forward before planting a low shot under Palop. The goal was as brilliant as it was unexpected, but Valencia soon hit back, as Fabián Canobbio shot in from the edge of the area two minutes before the break.
With two away goals already to their name, Besiktas began the second half with confidence, and although Valencia again held more of the possession, it was the Turkish side who came closest to adding a third. First on 58 minutes another swift break saw Sergen Yalçin's shot saved, then moments later, Palop blocked from Pancu. The rebound fell to Kaan Dobra, but his shot missed the unguarded goal.
As Aimar tired, the veteran Sergen was growing increasingly influential and though Valencia pressed, it was Besiktas who were carving out the better chances, notably on 84 minutes when Tayfur Havutçu pulled the ball back for Sergen for a shot that was tipped over by Palop. But with four minutes of injury time played the balance shifted again when Navarro made room for himself in a crowded penalty area to loop a dramatic winner into the far corner.
"It was a strange match, but we got an important goal at the end," Valencia coach Rafael Benítez said. "We made two defensive mistakes and they were good on the break, but now they must win the second match and I have confidence in my team."