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Thursday, 19 January 2012

Valencia thrash Levante in Copa first leg

Valencia: Unai Emery will be pleased with his Valencia players as they cruised to a comfortable 4-1 victory over their city rivals Levante at Mestalla, in the first leg of their Copa del Rey quarter-final clash.

After Jonas opened the scoring midway through the first half, Roberto Soldado added a second with 31 minutes played. Levante soon pegged Valencia back with a terrific strike from Arouna Kone but Pablo Piatti's goal before the break killed off the tie, and Tino Costa added a fourth in injury time.

Valencia assumed total control of possession from the off, pressing extremely high and with great intensity. To add to the visitors frustrations they continually switched the ball between the wings as they looked to create space for Soldado and Jonas.

Their hard work eventually drew rewards as Soldado regained possession in the opposing half, initiating a counterattack. He found Pablo Hernandez who timed his pass perfectly to slip in Jonas as he made a diagonal run into the box. The Brazilian striker squeezed a shot underneath Keylor Navas and found the back of the net.

Valencia doubled their lead just seven minutes later. Pablo provided yet another dangerous cross from the right wing which Javi Venta failed to clear. Soldado was on hand to pounce on the loose ball, slamming an opportunistic volley home from the edge of the six-yard box.

Levante were still yet to settle and had struggled to formulate anything noteworthy in attack, but that did not blunt the striking instinct of Arouna Kone.

With eight minutes of the first half remaining the Ivorian took advantage of Pallardo’s loose control, producing a spectacular snapshot from 20 yards that soared into the top-left corner, giving Diego Alves no chance.

Valencia were not through and restored their two-goal advantage in stoppage time. Pablo, influential for much of the contest, played a delightful ball to Piatti at the back post. The Argentine beat Navas to the ball, lifting his effort into the net but taking a knock for his troubles.

Piatti's goal seemingly changed the dynamic of the game as after a swift Valencia counterattack in the opening minute of the second half, the game settled into a slower rhythm.

The hosts tightened up in defence but the game descended into a very scrappy, ill-tempered affair late on. With 10 yellow cards being shown in the space of 10 minutes, the Levante players lost their concentration; Valencia almost scored a fourth but Victor Ruiz hit the post with a header from a matter of yards out.

Kone was sent through on goal with just three minutes remaining and drilled a powerful effort at Diego Alves' near post. The Brazilian reacted well to turn the ball behind and avoid conceding what would have been a potentially disastrous second.

Valencia countered in stoppage time and with men over, Tino Costa had space on the edge of the area. His shot took a wicked deflection off of Gustavo Cabral and looped into the net to secure a convincing victory.

Los Che are in the driving seat ahead of the second leg at Ciutat de Valencia next week. Levante though can still dream of a semi-final tie against Real Madrid or Barcelona but they will need a minor miracle following Costa's strike at the death.


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