Valencia 3-1 Monaco
French-born Sofiane Feghouli's late strike gave Valencia a two-goal play-off first-leg advantage to defend in the principality next Tuesday.
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- French-born Sofiane Feghouli's late strike earns Valencia 3-1 first-leg win
- Mario Pašalić equalises a fourth-minute opener from Rodrigo
- Daniel Parejo makes it 2-1 before Feghouli's clincher
- Second leg on Tuesday
It needed nerve, confidence and a late goal from French-born Sofiane Feghouli but Valencia will take a 3-1 lead to Monaco for their UEFA Champions League play-off return after Mario Pašalić equalised a fourth-minute opener from Rodrigo before Daniel Parejo edged the home side back in front.
What served Valencia so well was a hurricane start. Despite the fact that the Ligue 1 vistors are already into their domestic programme, which does not begin in the Liga until this weekend, Nuno Espirito Santo's men were ferociously quick and intense right from the kick-off.
The opener stemmed from Rodrigo De Paul pushing from left midfield to make a fourth attacker and crossing to the far post. His dart forward had enabled Rodrigo to move inside as a second centre-forward, so when Feghouli headed back into the middle the Valencia strikers could choose who buried the chance and Paco Alcácer allowed his partner that privilege
For a brief period it became a tidal wave of chances, often with some contribution from the Parisian Feghouli, the only French-born player in Valencia's team.
But steady, calm prompting from Jérémy Toulalan, impressive, clever work from the athletic Anthony Martial and gradual slips in concentration from Valencia altered the tempo of the game.
Martial set up Bernardo Silva for a clean strike on target and if there's a better save all season than from debutant Mathew Ryan who finger-tipped the shot onto his far post then you'd pay good money to see it.
Post the break Valencia's minor errors continued, and Monaco pounced. Martial's 49th-minute cross was aimed at Ivan Cavaleiro but Rúben Vezo's intended block fell perfectly for Pašalić to stab the ball home.
Nuno changed things, creatively, with a forward in Pablo Piatti, for a midfielder, De Paul. Within moments it was the Argentinian's cutback which left club captain Parejo to elegantly convert.
Feghouli's vital strike, the most clinical of the night, only capped a performance of both grit and silken skills from the winger.
Nuno Espirito Santo, Valencia coach
We played well and it was essential to win today. This match has been on our minds for a long time. I really value the win, the effort of the players and the support of our fans. We needed that character to go and score goals when we were not playing well. To overcome a team whose preparation is more advanced takes character and a great effort from the players. We will go to Monaco to compete. We know what awaits us. Nothing is decided and we will go with the same mission as we had today – to try to win the game. There are no favourites.
Leonardo Jardim, Monaco coach
The result is unfair for two reasons. First, we hit the post. If that had gone in, the goal would have changed the rest of the game. Also, when we were playing better Valencia scored their second and third goals. Conceding goals like today, from balls across the area, is bad. This is not normal for our team and we need to correct it. We have to score two goals at home, we have the ambition to try and win this tie.