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Leverkusen fight back to defeat Valencia

Bayer 04 Leverkusen 2-1 Valencia CF
Sidney Sam scored a wonderful winner as Leverkusen came from behind to move four points clear of their opponents in Group E.

Leverkusen fight back to defeat Valencia
Leverkusen fight back to defeat Valencia ©UEFA.com

A stunning strike from Sidney Sam capped an equally spectacular turnaround as Bayer 04 Leverkusen came from a goal down to end Valencia CF's unbeaten run in Group E.

A home victory looked highly unlikely after a first half dominated by the visitors. Yet with only Jonas's 24th-minute strike to show for their superiority, Valencia found themselves behind in the space of five second-half minutes. First André Schürrle equalised before Sam arrowed a sublime strike beyond Diego Alves to give Leverkusen back-to-back wins in the section.

For a team with a justified reputation as being defensively sound, Valencia began with an enterprising air, all incisive movement and crisp interplay. It should have brought an opening goal when, following a fleet-footed counterattack, Éver Banega's drive ricocheted into the path of the unmarked Soldado, who struck a post with the goal gaping.

The luckless striker would not have to wait long to make amends, showing the poise he had previously lacked to capitalise on a misunderstanding in the Leverkusen back four. From the left side of the area, the striker clipped in a fine pass with the outside of his boot and Jonas did the rest by passing it into the net having timed his run perfectly.

Another mistake led to Leno having to brilliantly parry both Jonas's drive and Pablo Hernández's follow-up as Leverkusen were in danger of being overwhelmed. Though clearly second best, they very nearly found themselves level at the break as Schürrle's spectacular dipping volley extended Diego Alves.

From the resulting corner, the Brazilian goalkeeper parried Michael Ballack's header straight onto Stefan Kiessling, who could do little but watch the ball bounce off his knee and agonisingly wide from point-blank range.

Having seen his defence shredded, Robin Dutt brought on Manuel Friedrich at half-time; the centre-back's arrival appearing to infuse confidence through the side. That belief manifested itself in a well-worked equaliser, as Michal Kadlec darted forward from left-back and his cross found Schürrle, whose sweetly struck shot from the edge of the area was too good for Diego Alves.

The balance of the match had swung, and unlike their visitors, Leverkusen quickly capitalised on their dominance. Having been picked out by Ballack's swerving pass, Sam burst clear of the Valencia defence down the right before striking a majestic curling shot into the far top corner with his left foot.

Valencia recovered from the blow to rally, but Leno's reflexes denied Soldado. The teenage custodian was then well positioned to cling onto a Jonas shot to ensure his team moved four points clear of their opponents ahead of the teams' reunion in Spain in two weeks' time.