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Primera División

  • 3 December 2011
  • • 21:00
  • • Estadio de Mestalla, Valencia
  • Referee: Carlos Velasco Carballo
  • • Attendance: 41500
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Valencia 2-1 Espanyol: Soldado salvages win for hosts ahead of Champions League decider against Chelsea

Valencia 2-1 Espanyol: Soldado salvages win for hosts ahead of Champions League decider against Chelsea

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The striker's late header helped keep Unai Emery's side four points behind second-placed Barcelona after Tino Costa's early penalty had been cancelled out by Hector Moreno's goal

Valencia's Roberto Soldado came off the substitute's bench to secure a 2-1 victory against Espanyol at Mestalla in La Liga to keep them within touching distance of top-two Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Unai Emery tinkered with his team selection in preparation for the do-or-die midweek Champions League clash against Chelsea with Jonas, Sofiane Feghouli and Roberto Soldado rested for Espanyol's visit.

However, despite the absence of three of their first-team players, the hosts took an early lead through Tino Costa's penalty but Valencia struggled to score a second to kill the game off before Espanyol fought back.

And Hector Moreno deservedly levelled the game midway through the second half only for Emery to introduce Soldado, who restored Valencia's lead with a superb header.

In a high-octane match both sides had spells of dominance, and it was Valencia who started on the front foot with Cristian Alvarez saving from Pablo Hernandez early on.

Valencia then took the lead when they were awarded a sixth minute penalty. The referee spotted an infringement on Angel Dealbert and Costa stepped up to emphatically fire Valencia ahead.

Mauricio Pochettino's side then asserted themselves on the match with a sustained period of possession and could have been level but for a flying save from Diego Alves.

Vladimir Weiss swung in a free kick to Joan Verdu, whose touch at the near post was turned behind for a corner by a strong hand from the Brazilian keeper.

The pendulum then swung back in the direction of the home side with Aritz Aduriz and Pablo Hernandez troubling the Espanyol defence but neither were able to extend Valencia's lead.

The Catalan outfit searched for an equaliser in the early exchanges of the second half, pinning the hosts back and forcing them to play on the counter-attack.

And Espanyol's persistence paid dividends when Rui Fonte cleverly dummied a low cross allowing Moreno to turn the ball home from inside the six-yard box.

Emery reacted to the equaliser by introducing Soldado into the mix and the striker put Valencia ahead within five minutes of coming on. Costa swung the ball across and Soldado managed to escape his marker before directing his header past a helpless Alvarez.

Despite Espanyol's attempts, they were unable to find a second equaliser as they slumped to their seventh defeat of the season.

Valencia face Chelsea in the Champions League on Tuesday at Stamford Bridge  with Emery's side requiring a score draw to progress.

Espanyol, meanwhile, next host Atletico Madrid in La Liga as they will look to recover from the defeat at Mestalla which leaves them in mid-table.

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