Valencia took a giant
stride towards securing a King's Cup semi-final showdown with
holders Real Madrid or 2011 runners-up Barcelona when they
thumped city rivals Levante 4-1 in their quarter-final first leg
Former Spain midfielder Pablo Hernandez had a hand in three
of Valencia's goals at the Mestalla to help give the 2008
winners a healthy advantage ahead of next week's second leg at
Levante's Ciutat de Valencia home.
Jonas ran on to an Hernandez pass and fired under goalkeeper
Keylor Navas to give the home side a 24th-minute lead before
Roberto Soldado struck in the 31st after the Levante defence
failed to deal with Hernandez's cross.
Arouna Kone pulled a goal back when he crashed a volley into
the roof of the net from edge of area six minutes later and
Pablo Piatti beat Navas to another Hernandez centre to make it
3-1 in first-half added-time.
The flow of the match was disrupted in the second half by a
slew of fouls and some ugly confrontations between players and
10 of the 11 yellow cards shown by the referee came in the
Kone came close to scoring a second in the 89th minute but
was denied by a superb save from Valencia goalkeeper Diego Alves
before a deflected Tino Costa effort in the fourth minute of
added-time looped up over substitute goalkeeper Gustavo Munua to
make it 4-1.
"We had a few counter-attacks at the end that we could have
exploited better but I think that last goal gives us a lot of
breathing space for the return leg," Soldado said in an
interview with Spanish television.
"Our idea was to avoid conceding a goal, which is important
in a first leg at home, but our fourth will probably turn out to
be very important," added the former Real Madrid striker, who is
hoping for a callup to the Spain squad for this year's European
Barca came from a goal down to beat Real 2-1 on Wednesday,
Carles Puyol and Eric Abidal netting after Cristiano Ronaldo had
put Jose Mourinho's side, who beat their arch rivals 1-0 in last
year's final, 1-0 up in the 11th minute at the Bernabeu.
On the other side of the draw, Athletic Bilbao have a 2-0
advantage over Real Mallorca after the Basques won Wednesday's
first leg at the San Mames.
If they can hold on in Mallorca next week they will play
2006 champions Espanyol or third-tier Mirandes, who are through
to the quarters for the first time.
Mirandes stunned Espanyol by opening a two-goal lead in
their first leg on Tuesday before the home side struck three
times in four minutes late on to secure a 3-2 lead for the
second leg in Miranda de Ebro.
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