Soldado rescues win for Valencia
Roberto Soldado came off the bench to nod in the winner as Valencia sealed a 2-1 win over Espanyol in La Liga today.
With leaders Real Madrid and second-placed Barcelona having already won handsomely, third-placed Valencia looked set to draw when Hector Moreno cancelled out Tino Costa's sixth-minute penalty. But Soldado, rested on the bench owing to a thigh injury ahead of the midweek do-or-die UEFA Champions League match with Chelsea, came to his side's rescue by scoring within four minutes of his introduction.
It had initially looked as though Unai Emery's decision to leave Soldado wrapped up would pay off when Costa scored early on. Didac Vila felled Angel Dealbert in the box and Costa did the rest, smashing left-footed into the top corner to put his side ahead from the spot.
It took a smart save from Diego Alves to keep them in front, though, with the goalkeeper getting down well after Vazquez Alvaro had got the slightest of touches to Vladimir Weiss' vicious free-kick.
Pablo Piatti then had a shot beaten away by Christian Alvarez as Valencia looked for a second goal, something Mehmet Topal should have given them when he nodded Costa's corner wide. But Espanyol did well to stay with their hosts and, with 21 minutes to go, they worked their first genuine chance from open play and scored from it.
Koulossa Thievy got free on the right, and his cross, perfectly dummied by Rui Fonte, fell for Moreno who touched in from close range. Valencia looked to hit straight back and Pablo should have done better when he broke through, while Jonas hit wide after a scramble.
There would be no denying Soldado, though, who, four minutes after his 76th-minute introduction, got free at the front post to nod home a Costa corner.