The Basque side disappoint as the Spain striker 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 ten minutes Soldado completed his treble with a penalty.
The visitors had only won one of their last seven away league games, but they started the strongest, 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 was without star striker Fernando Llorente, and this showed as it lacked that killer instinct in front of goal. Indeed, it was struggling to even achieve an effort on target.
On 30 minutes, Los Che had a chance as Antonio Barragan and Soldado exchanged passes, but Barregan’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 caught easily by Vicente Guaita.
With half-time looming, it looked as if the score was going to remain goalless. However, out of nothing, Bilbao defender San Jose underhit his back-pass to the goalkeeper. Valencia striker Soldado stole the ball and rounded Iraizoz to score his first league goal for eight games, and crucially put his side ahead.
In the second half Athletic was having sustained pressure for the first time in the game. Iker Muniain had a shot that was surely destined for the net blocked. Ander then had a cross that 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 was stunned.
The final nail in the coffin for Los Leones was the sending off of captain Andoni Iraola for a second yellow, after bringing down Jordi Alba on the edge of the area.
Unai Emery’s side controlled the game after this. 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 with a handball on 85 minutes, and Soldado completed his hat-trick from the spot, hitting the ball into the top right-hand corner.
The victory for Emery’s side means that it moves six points clear of fourth-placed Levante, and looks set to qualify for the Champions League next season. Marcelo Bielsa’s team on the other hand has now lost consecutive games in the league, and needs to find the form showcased in the Europa League, if it is to qualify for Europe again.