netted a blistering first-half treble to lift Valencia to a
crushing 7-0 win over Racing Genk in Champions League Group E on
Wednesday that improved the Spanish club's chances of reaching
the last 16.
The Spanish striker's hat-trick at a festive Mestalla helped
Valencia to their biggest victory in Europe's elite club
competition, one goal short of Liverpool's record 8-0
destruction of Besiktas in 2007.
A scoring draw for Unai Emery's side in their final game at
Chelsea on December 6 would be enough to secure a berth in the
knockout round after the English side were upset 2-1 in Germany
by Bayer Leverkusen, who sealed their place in the last 16.
"We achieved our objective and our players will grow in
confidence because of that," Emery said at a news conference.
"We need to remain focused now and to forget about tonight's
game even though it was a beautiful one for us and one in which
we managed to score a lot of goals."
Valencia started at a high tempo despite the rain-sodden
pitch and forward Jonas breached the Belgian defences when he
headed home in the 10th minute.
The Brazilian sent Soldado clear to make it 2-0 three
minutes later with a low shot past Genk goalkeeper Laszlo
Koteles and the pair combined again in the 36th minute when
Soldado raced away from his markers and struck a powerful shot
high into the net.
He completed his hat-trick in the 39th with a tap-in at the
far post from a Pablo Hernandez centre, his fifth Champions
League goal of the campaign.
Pablo, who took the captain's armband when Soldado was
replaced by Aritz Aduriz, curled in a fifth in the 68th minute,
Aduriz muscled his way through the defence to make it 6-0 two
minutes later and Tino Costa added the seventh in the 81st.
Victory took Valencia up to eight points from five matches,
level with Chelsea and one behind Leverkusen. Genk have two
points and have no chance of qualifying or securing the berth in
the Europa League for the team that finishes third.
"We played a complete game and now we are left with our last
chance against Chelsea in our final encounter which if we win
will qualify us," Emery said.
"We started tonight with a high level of intensity and we
tried to score as many goals as we could as we knew that could
be important in terms of the group standings."
Soldado's performance, coming after his double against
former club Real Madrid in La Liga at the weekend, will boost
his chances of a recall to the Spain squad for next year's
European Championship in Ukraine and Poland.
The 26-year-old, who was born in Valencia and was given a
rousing ovation by the home fans when he was substituted, has
represented the world and European champions only twice, back in
June 2007, when he failed to score.
Pressure has been mounting on Spain coach Vicente del Bosque
to pick Soldado, one of the nation's best forwards along with
Barcelona's David Villa, Fernando Torres of Chelsea, Athletic
Bilbao's Fernando Llorente and Sevilla's Alvaro Negredo.
"We have to be intelligent against Chelsea in the final
game," Soldado was quoted as saying on UEFA.com.
"It will be difficult. We can qualify with a 1-1 scoreline
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