The Basque side disappoint as Soldado sweeps the hosts aside to claim victory for Los Che, and consolidate their position within the top three
Valencia produced a clinical performance to record a 3-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao at San Mames in La Liga action on Sunday.
Roberto Soldado scored a fantastic hat-trick, first capitalising on Mikel San Jose’s mistake, then doubling his tally after Jordi Alba’s layoff. In the last 10 minutes Soldado completed his treble with a penalty, to leave Marcelo Bielsa's men stunned after their midweek heroics against Manchester United in Europe.
The visitors had only won one of their last seven away league games, but they started the stronger, with Soldado having a sumptuous curling shot into the top right-hand corner of the goal disallowed, for what was deemed a foul on Javi Martinez.
The home side were without star striker Fernando Llorente, who picked up a knock in the Europa League, and this showed as they lacked that killer instinct in front of goal.
The hald was low on incident, but on 30 minutes Los Che had a chance as Antonio Barragan and Soldado exchanged passes, but Barragan’s shot was tame, and straight at Gorka Iraizoz.
At the other end, the Basque side had an attempt, Oscar De Marcos with a strong run into the box, but his attempt was gathered easily by Vicente Guaita.
With half-time looming, it looked as if the score was going to remain goalless, but out of nothing, Bilbao defender San Jose casually underhit his back-pass to Iraizoz. Valencia striker Soldado stole the ball and rounded the keeper to score his first league goal in eight games, and crucially put his side ahead.
In the second half, Athletic enjoyed sustained pressure for the first time in the game. Iker Muniain had a shot that was surely destined for the net blocked, then Ander's cross whipped across the goal with no one there to finish.
It was against the run of play, then, when on 57 minutes Jordi Alba fought his way into the box, laying the ball back for Soldado to fire into the bottom-right hand corner of Iraizoz’s goal. Valencia had a two goal cushion, and the home support couldn't fathom how their side was behind.
The final nail in the coffin for Los Leones was the sending off of Andoni Iraola for a second yellow, after bringing down Jordi Alba on the edge of the area.
Unai Emery’s side controlled the game from then on. Soldado nearly made it three with a volley after a cross from the right, but his attempt was wide. Then 15 minutes from the end of the game, he was through on goal, but his shot was thwarted by Iraizoz.
A miserable night for the San Mames faithful was completed when San Jose conceded a penalty for handball on 85 minutes, and Soldado completed his hat-trick from the spot, slotting the ball into the top corner.
The victory for Emery’s side means that they move six points clear of fourth-placed Levante, and look set to qualify for the Champions League next season. Marcelo Bielsa’s team, on the other hand, have now lost consecutive games in the league, and they need to find the form showcased against Manchester United if they are to qualify for Europe again.