Gençlerbirligi SK continued their impressive UEFA Cup run with a 1-0 fourth-round first-leg win against Valencia CF at the 19 Mayis stadium in Ankara.
Filip Daems scored the only goal of the game from the penalty spot after 12 minutes and Valencia were unable to respond despite dominating most of the second half, putting themselves in danger of being added to the list of the Turkish side's impressive scalps this term. Blackburn Rovers FC, Sporting Clube de Portugal and Parma AC have already made way for Gençlerbirligi in this season’s competition.
Gençlerbirligi coach Ersun Yanal made no changes to the team that beat Parma 3-0 in the last round while Valencia were without a host of first-team members, including playmaker Pablo Aimar, who suffered a hamstring injury at the weekend against RC Deportivo La Coruña.
Gençlerbirligi started the brighter and put some early pressure on Valencia with forward Souleymane Youla a constant threat. The Guinean international disturbed the Valencia defence throughout the first half with his diagonal runs and, on two occasions, it was only the flag of the referee's assistant which stopped the forward from testing Andrés Palop in the Valencia goal.
Youla and Gençlerbirligi, however, were rewarded for their early endeavour in the 12th minute when Roberto Ayala was adjudged to have brought down Youla in the penalty area and the home team were awarded a penalty. Filip Daems stepped up to take the spot kick and his low, accurate effort beat Palop to the goalkeeper’s left.
Gençlerbirligi continued to dominate proceedings as the visitors found it hard to break down the Turkish side's defence. Ricardo Oliveira was often left on his own up front for Valencia and it was down to the home side to do most of the attacking. Mustafa Özkan had the only other chance of the first half but his shot went narrowly wide.
Valencia upped the tempo in the second half and Oliveira nearly equalised after 50 minutes as he powered past two defenders, but his shot shaved the post. Valencia coach Rafael Benítez then threw on Fabián Canobbio in place of Oliveira to put even more pressure on the Gençlerbirligi defence but goalkeeper Damir Botonjic was equal to everything that was thrown at him.
Serkan Balci had Gençlerbirligi’s best chance of the second half after 57 minutes but it was Valencia who looked more likely to score throughout the final 45 minutes. Canobbio went close with a dangerous free-kick while Xisco Muñoz saw his low cross just elude his team-mates.
Valencia then replaced Miguel Angulo and Juan Sánchez with Francisco Rufete and Vicente Rodríguez, but to no avail. David Albelda, captain on the day, was presented with his team'[s last chance with three minutes remaining, but his shot went high and Gençlerbirligi rode out the storm. They will now have to defend their 1-0 lead in Valencia in two weeks' time to reach the quarter-finals.