"It wasn't revenge or anything like that," said Sofiane Feghouli, speaking to UEFA.com after marking his return to his native France with Valencia's 'zapatazo' winner at Lyon.
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A 'zapatazo' – that is how the Spanish press described Sofiane Feghouli's splendid winning effort for Valencia against Lyon on Tuesday. Translation: 'a fierce kick'. Or, alternatively, 'a violent flap of a sail'.
Both versions feel valid as the good ship Valencia has finally left port in Group H, and it was Feghouli's vicious strike that got them moving, allied with some excellent saves from Jaume Doménech – surely one of the more talented third-choice goalkeepers in the UEFA Champions League.
Feghouli succeeded where a long list of his peers on both sides failed, finding the net in a match that yielded 30 attempts on goal and just six on target. Valencia coach Nuno Espírito Santo had predicted that "the team which dominates possession will win the match", but, as it turned out, he was wrong. Ultimately, it was all about finishing.
Lyon saw 56% of the ball, yet while the likes of Mathieu Valbuena and Corentin Tolisso were thwarted by Doménech, Feghouli gave Anthony Lopes no chance with a rasping drive from outside the area. Totally unmarked, the Algerian international was picked out by Pablo Piatti and crashed the ball in off the bar – one of five occasions the woodwork was struck in an eventful opening 45 minutes.
"The first half was full of chances and I think we could have scored a second," Feghouli told UEFA.com afterwards, Valencia focusing more on their defensive work after the break to claim the points that eluded them in their matchday one loss to Zenit. "We're very happy, especially in terms of our attitude. We played a team game."
Both teams went at their task with admirable spirit, in fact, belying their billing as stuttering heavyweights wracked with doubt. "I don't think we lacked confidence," said Feghouli. "We started with a lot of personality. We played our game and if there's anything to correct it's our second half: we dropped back and let them create danger."
Valencia have made a habit of causing French sides dismay down the years, losing just three times in 23 contests and beating OL twice in 2000/01, but Feghouli's own experience of Lyon before this match was entirely negative. Born in France, the right winger helped Grenoble attain to promotion to Ligue 1 in 2008, and he featured in a pair of 2-0 losses to Les Gones the following season.
His six-year stay with Grenoble then ended amid injury and a little acrimony in 2010, but he denied that burying the winner at the Stade de Gerland felt sweeter than most of his goals. "It wasn't revenge or anything like that. Of course, it always makes me happy to come back to France. I played in the league here against French teams, so I'm very pleased to have scored tonight."
As too was his coach Nuno Espírito Santo, under pressure already this term despite ending his side's two-year absence from Europe's premier club tournament. "I've said before that Feghouli's a player I admire," commented the Portuguese. "He's very serious, a great professional and I hope he stays with us." For now, in any case, Nuno and his players look to be sailing in the same direction.