Topal torpedo sinks Stoke
Stunning first-half strike proves the difference in first leg
Last Updated: 17/02/12 9:13am
Mehmet Topal's stunning first-half strike handed Valencia the advantage in their Europa League round of 32 clash with Stoke.
Topal unleashed a long range effort into the top corner on 36 minutes to give the visitors a deserved lead at the Britannia.
Sofiane Feghouli then hit the post in the second half as Stoke could find no way through and will have to win the second leg in the Mestalla next Thursday if their European adventure is to continue.
Potters boss Tony Pulis described the tie as one of the greatest occasions in the club's history and there was certainly a big difference between the teams in terms of experience, with Valencia playing their 100th game in the Europa League or UEFA Cup compared to Stoke's 15th.
Los Che won the competition in 2004 and are once again the best of the rest in Spain this season, sitting third behind Real Madrid and Barcelona.
The cliche about European teams normally involves asking how they would fare on a wet evening in Stoke, and the hosts were quick to test their opponents, with Jon Walters benefiting from a misplaced header but firing well wide of target in the first minute.
Vicente Guaita, preferred to Diego Alves in goal because of his prowess at dealing with crosses, coped well with two Matthew Etherington corners but the first Rory Delap long throw caused panic in the Valencia defence and surely would have cost them a goal had Walters managed to get his head on it.
The visitors were treated to jeers and shouts of 'boring' when they finally managed to string some passes together, but Stoke were grateful to keeper Asmir Begovic for a great save to deny Jonas after he jinked his way through the defence in the 21st minute.
Valencia's class was beginning to tell and the Stoke defence were called upon to make a number of blocks, while Robert Huth flicked a curling shot from Tino Costa behind.
The Spaniards seemed determined to walk the ball into the net so there was a certain irony that their opening goal after 36 minutes came from a thundering 30-yard shot from Topal that left Begovic pawing at thin air.
Feghouli then fired just wide as Valencia turned the screw but Stoke were almost level moments later when a peach of a cross from Jermaine Pennant was met by Crouch's acrobatic volley which just failed to find the target.
Stoke, who did beat Valencia when the sides met in a friendly at the Britannia in 2004, desperately needed something to take with them to the Mestalla next week.
Pennant's crosses looked their most likely creative source and he almost picked out the head of Walters with another gem 11 minutes into the second half.
Pulis had made his first change by that point, sending on Dean Whitehead for the ineffectual Wilson Palacios, while Huth had to be alert to cut out a dangerous low ball from Feghouli at the near post.
Cameron Jerome and Ryan Shotton came on for Crouch and Marc Wilson, but Stoke almost found themselves two behind in the 71st minute when Feghouli again found space down the right.
He jinked his way into a shooting position in the middle of the box and was desperately unlucky to see the ball bounce off the inside of the post and onto Begovic but not find its way into the net.
Stoke continued to probe and Huth stabbed a shot wide from Etherington's corner before Shotton's 25-yard effort deflected off a defender but Guaita recovered just in time.
Leading scorer Roberto Soldado, who had reportedly been struggling with illness, came on for the final 13 minutes but the visitors were more than happy to settle for a one-goal victory.
|Stoke City||Team Statistics||Valencia|
|0||1st Half Goals||1|
|0||Shots on Target||2|
|4||Shots off Target||7|
|0||1st Half Poss.||0|
|0||2nd Half Poss.||0|
Thu 16th Feb - Round of 32
Lokomotiv2 - 1Ath Bilbao
Ajax0 - 2Man Utd
Salzburg0 - 4Metalist
AZ Alkmaar1 - 0Anderlecht
Lazio1 - 3A Madrid
Plzen1 - 1Schalke
Leg Warsaw2 - 2Sporting
FC Porto1 - 2Man City
Stoke0 - 1Valencia
S Bucuresti0 - 1Twente
Wisla Krakow1 - 1S Liege
Udinese0 - 0PAOK S'nika
Trabzonspor1 - 2PSV
Hannover2 - 1Club Brugge
Europa League Group A
Europa League Group B
Europa League Group C
Europa League Group D
|2||Red Bull Salzburg||2||4|
|4||FC Astra Ploiesti||2||0|
Europa League Group E
Europa League Group F
Europa League Group G
Europa League Group H
Europa League Group I
|3||BSC Young Boys Bern||2||3|
|4||SK Slovan Bratislava||2||0|
Europa League Group J
|2||FC Steaua Bucuresti||2||3|
Europa League Group K
Europa League Group L