Valencia CF coach Rafael Benítez admitted his side had faced a tough struggle against Gençlerbirligi SK.
Valencia CF coach Rafael Benítez admitted his relief at securing a place in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup after a silver goal took them past Gençlerbirligi SK.
The Turkish side, in only their second UEFA Cup campaign, had already eliminated Blackburn Rovers FC, Sporting Clube de Portugal and Parma AC, and a 1-0 home win in the first leg left another scalp on the cards.
Despite dominating possession, Valencia were held at bay until the 63rd minute when substitute Mista broke the deadlock. Goalkeeper Damir Botonjic kept Gençlerbirligi in the tie despite Mustafa Özkan's late dismissal and it was not until another replacement, Vicente Rodríguez, volleyed in four minutes into extra time that Valencia were ahead.
"We knew it was not going to be easy," Benítez said. "They are an aggressive team and they never gave up. It was complicated to find space but after the goal we have played with more freedom. This was harder than the third round against Besiktas - because of the pressure and aggression of the Turkish players."
Chance of progress
Next up for Valencia are the French side FC Girondins de Bordeaux, and Benítez believes progress is possible. "The game against Bordeaux is open, both teams have a chance," he said.
Looking still further ahead, a potential match up with near neighbours Villarreal CF awaits in the last four, and though Benítez is happy to see the Spanish side still flying the flag for the locality, he has his heart set on their last-eight opponents, Celtic FC.
"I am happy because Villarreal has progressed past this round against [AS] Roma," he said. "That is very important for the community. I would like to face Celtic in the semi-finals because we know they are a great team."
Gençlerbirligi coach Ersun Yanal was disappointed their run had come to an end, but praised his team for going further than any other Turkish side in Europe this season. "I congratulate my players," he said. "I am happy with their work. It has been a very positive experience for them. We have been knocked out by one of the best teams in Europe."
A strong defence had been the hallmark of Gençlerbirligi's success in the UEFA Cup, and Yanal praised his side for another excellent performance. "The match started well for us," he said. "We made a mistake for the goal but generally we played well. Up until the first goal we even managed to fashion chances ourselves."
Yanal then tipped Valencia to go all the way. "I think Valencia are favourites to win the UEFA Cup as they have brilliant, creative players," he said.