Bayer Leverkusen scored twice
in four minutes to beat Valencia 2-1 in the Champions League on
Wednesday and tighten their hold on second spot in Group E.
The Spaniards, still without a win in the group, led at the
interval with a goal by Jonas but Andre Schuerrle levelled with
a thundering drive in the 52nd minute.
Former Germany captain Michael Ballack set up Sidney Sam for
the winner in the 56th to secure Leverkusen's first win over a
Spanish side in the last eight attempts.
The result leaves the 2002 Champions League finalists in
second spot on six points, one behind leaders Chelsea who
crushed Belgium's Racing Genk 5-0.
Valencia, who had outplayed the Germans in the first half
and had only themselves to blame for not having scored several
more goals, stay third on two points.
"The team played a top game after the 35th minute,"
Leverkusen coach Robin Dutt told reporters. "The first half was
not a pretty sight but then we took control.
"We managed to turn a game against a top international team
and that will give us an extra boost."
The game, seen by both coaches as key for a top two finish
that secures qualification to the knockout stage, got off to a
frantic start with Valencia threatening with a powerful Roberto
The Spanish forward was then fortunate to see the ball
deflected into his path in the 20th minute but his close-range
effort was off target.
Soldado was involved again five minutes later when he
benefitted from some confusion between defenders Stefan Reinartz
and Omer Toprak, cut into the area and set up Brazilian Jonas to
tap in for his first Champions League goal.
Soldado should have added another a little later but failed
to keep his header from six metres down before teenage
Leverkusen keeper Bernd Leno made a spectacular double save as
the Spaniards went on a full-frontal attack.
Frustration showed for Dutt, who was pacing up and down,
barking orders. His shouts awakened his players just before the
break with Schuerrle forcing a good save from keeper Diego Alves
who then palmed a point-blank Ballack header wide.
Dutt brought in experienced Manuel Friedrich for Reinartz in
the second half and the move paid off instantly as Valencia lost
much of their first half pace.
Ballack quickly found more space in midfield and Germany
international Schuerrle launched their comeback seven minutes
after the restart, firing in a powerful left-footer from a
Michal Kadlec cross.
With the Spaniards struggling to find a way back into the
game Sam struck in the 56th, chasing down a well-timed Ballack
pass to beat Alves with a curled shot.
"The result is unfair as we deserved to win," said
disappointed Valencia coach Unai Emery. "I am happy for the way
we played but disappointed with the result."
The two sides meet again on November 1 in Spain.
"It is now harder to qualify from the group but we have to
remain optimistic. It is difficult, but there it is. We now have
to beat them at home," he said.
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