Valencia crush AZ to set up Atlético date
Valencia turned around their Europa League quarter-final with AZ Alkmaar in spectacular fashion to set up an all-Spanish semi-final against Atletico Madrid.
Trailing 2-1 from last week’s first leg in the Netherlands, Unai Emery’s men left their indifferent Liga form behind them and produced a dazzling display at the Mestalla to overcome AZ 4-0 on the night and 5-2 on aggregate. Adil Rami scored twice and there was a goal each from Pablo Hernandez and the man-of-the-match, winger Jordi Alba.
Valencia gave early warning of their attacking intent when Tino Costa volleyed wide following a corner. Roberto Soldado then forced a good save from goalkeeper Esteban, and took the lead after only 15 minutes when Sofiane Feghouli’s cross from the right was met by Rami. The same player gave Los Che an aggregate lead just two minutes later as Soldado flicked on Tino Costa’s cross for Rami to prod home.
AZ were not without chances of their own, but could not cope with the skilful Alba, whose attacking wing-play gave visiting right-back Dirk Marcellis a particularly torrid time. Soldado and Alba had efforts blocked before Soldado’s centre found Alba running in to slot the ball past Esteban on 56 minutes. Alba then latched on to a pass from Soldado to cross for Hernandez to round off the scoring 10 minutes from time.
Apart from driving them closer to winning some silverware, the win provided a much-needed boost to Valencia’s erratic recent home form and assuaged recent complaints from their fans. Emery’s side remain third in La Primera, but have been disappointing at the Mestalla, where they have won only once in six Liga starts in 2012.
Speaking after the match, Alba said he was pleased not only with the result, but with a performance that saw them take advantage of the opposition’s weaknesses that their Coach had told them to focus on.
“The pre-match briefing told us that their two central midfielders would leave us space and that we needed to take advantage of that,” the winger explained. “This was a very good performance, particularly after a run in which we haven’t been doing so well. Not only was the winning margin big, but we deserved it. When you play that well and create lots of chances the best thing is to convert them. This was a very complete team performance and one which I’m happy with too.”
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