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Late goals from Rubén Baraja and Francisco Rufete put Valencia CF on course for a place in the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup after the Spanish visitors came from behind to beat ten-man FC Girondins de Bordeaux in their quarter-final first leg.
Albert Riera had given Bordeaux the lead at the Stade Chaban-Delmas but once Antonio Mavuba had been dismissed for a kick at Mohamed Sissoko, Valencia took control and Baraja's equaliser with 15 minutes left to play was followed by Rufete's winner on 88 minutes.
Bordeaux coach Michel Pavon was again without his target man, Jean-Claude Darcheville, so Marouane Chamakh led the attack in an unchanged side from that which defeated Club Brugge KV in the last round. In contrast, Valencia coach Rafael Benítez stuck with his policy of making wholescale alterations. He implemented four changes from the side that had beaten Gençlerbirligi SK in the second leg of their fourth-round tie, Pablo Aimar and Roberto Ayala among the absentees.
Francia comes close
The disruption arguably accounted for Valencia's sluggish start which allowed Bordeaux, struggling in Ligue 1, to grow in confidence. The home side created the first clear-cut chance on 16 minutes, Juan Pablo Francia flashing a shot wide after he had been picked out by Mavuba.
Galvanised, Bordeaux pushed forward and two minutes later went ahead - thanks largely to Santiago Cañizares. The Valencia goalkeeper leapt to his left to block Riera's curling free-kick, but succeeded only in pushing a bouncing ball into his own net.
Mavuba sent off
Bordeaux's optimism faded nine minutes later, however, when Mavuba was adjudged to have kicked out at Sissoko and was sent off. Between both sides, referee Mike Riley booked seven players, with Bordeaux paying the biggest penalty as yellow cards to Chamakh and Franck Jurietti ensured that they, as well as Mavuba, will miss the second leg next Wednesday through suspension.
Valencia initially failed to make their man advantage count. Bordeaux upped their work-rate and shut their opponents down in midfield - and by the end of the first half Ulrich Ramé in the Bordeaux goal had hardly been troubled.
The story remained the same at the start of the second period, but slowly Valencia began to assert themselves as Bordeaux tired. Baraja, unusually subdued for much of the match, found another gear on 75 minutes to draw his side level. He burst through the centre on one of his characteristically powerful runs and a delightful one-two with Sissoko put him through on goal. Ramé was left with no chance by the 28-year-old's shot high to his left.
Bordeaux continued to threaten on the break, but the tide had turned in Valencia's favour and they made sure of their victory two minutes from time when Rufete tucked the ball in from close range after Fabián Canobbio's initial shot had struck the post.
Valencia in control
There was still time for Riera to force a diving save from Cañizares, but Valencia were in the ascendancy and with that Bordeaux trio suspended for the second leg in the Mestalla, seemingly well on their way to a place in the last four.
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