Morientes the man for Valencia
By Phil Jackson
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Fernando Morientes' hat-trick handed Valencia a thrilling 4-2 win away at Olympiakos.
Click here for Olympiakos v Valencia player ratings.
Fernando Morientes was the hero at Karaiskaki as his hat-trick gave Valencia a thrilling 4-2 win in the opening UEFA Champions League game of Group D against Olympiakos.
Michalis Konstantinou had put the home side into a deserved lead in the first half before Che scored twice in five minutes through the former Liverpool man to turn the game on its head.
Nery Alberto Castillo, rumoured to be a target for Chelsea, notched an impressive equaliser for his side as the visitors paid for missed chances.
But centre back Raul Albiol showed the way with a stunningly sweet strike just minutes from time. Morientes then leapt to seal the victory and score his 30th goal in 76 appearances in the competition.
Olympiakos coach Trond Sollied started with his three defensive recruits from the summer in Didier Domi, Michael Zewlakow and Abdeslam Ouaddou, as he looked to tighten up at the back. But they were looking to their former World and European Player of the Year Rivaldo to provide the inspiration.
With club captain David Albelda out through injury the experienced Miguel Angel Angulo took the captain's armband for Valencia. The club's record signing Joaquin was banned though following his dismissal for Real Betis in last year's Uefa Cup competition.
A hostile atmosphere greeted the Spanish giants in Athens, but they started well nevertheless with Spanish international David Villa looking dangerous.
But the final ball was lacking, as the bobbly early season pitch threatened to dictate proceedings and put pay to any cohesive football being played.
But it was the familiar figure of Rivaldo who created the best chance of the opening exchanges as Olympiakos took a foothold in the game.
Captain Predrag Djordjevic won a cheap free kick on the left and the Brazilian's inch-perfect cross picked out Abdeslam Ouaddou. But the former Rennes man failed to connect properly with the ball and thinned his header wide of Santiago Canizares' left-hand post.
A mazy run by the lively Castillo forced a poor challenge from Roberto Ayala, and Olympiakos had another free kick on the edge of the box, this time from a central position.
Rivaldo, who has punished Che before in his time at Deportivo La Coruna and Barcelona, curled his effort around the wall but saw the ball pushed safely wide by Canizares.
But the pressure from the home side was building, as Rivaldo showed his class drifting around and running things in the playmaker role.
And on 28 minutes, the home side got their breakthrough as Leroklis Stoltidis' beautiful chipped pass fell into the run of Cypriot international Konstantinou. On the move Konstantinou chested the ball down and prodded the ball home all in one movement to make it 1-0 to Olympiakos.
The Athens crowd were overjoyed with the smoke from their celebratory flares clouding the pitch.
But the goal only seemed to shake Valencia into life, as Raul Albiol had a great chance to equalise, but instead glanced his flicked header just wide.
With just 34 minutes on the clock though, Che were level. Edu's through ball to Villa saw last season's top scorer leave Ouaddou for dead, as he drove towards the edge of the left-hand six-yard box. Antonis Nikopolidis was left standing as Villa's cross picked out Morientes for his 28th in the competition to make it 1-1.
The game was turned on its head just moments later when Valencia broke into the opposition's half. Migulo ran with the ball into the box and shot into the bottom corner. Nikopolidis saved well with his right foot, but the ball fell kindly to Morientes who finished for his second of the game to put Valencia 2-1 up.
Ouaddou picked up the first caution of the game on 44 minutes for an unfortunate collision with Edu, but the last minutes of the half passed without incident and the half ended 2-1.
Valencia came out firing as they looked to put the game to bed, and defensive errors from the Athens backline saw David Villa break through clear on goal on three occasions.
He failed to connect correctly though and Nikopolidis was glad to grab the ball safely into his hands on each occasion.
At the other end Konstantinou almost made Che pay for their missed chances, as his superb header was tipped out of the top left hand corner by Canizares at full stretch.
The game was opening up, and it was Chelsea-linked Castillo on 66 minutes who chested superbly and struck his shot beneath the diving Ayala and into the far corner to make it 2-2.
Rivaldo had a great chance to hand his team the lead on 75 minutes as a poor header back to Canizares was pounced upon by Castillo. The ball broke to Rivaldo with Canizares struggling, but the 34-year-old fired his shot disappointingly high and handsome to keep the teams level.
With ten minutes left coach Quique Sanchez Flores took Villa off as Mario Regueiro came on to try to win it.
But it was Edu who forced a corner from a fine strike heading into the corner. The resulting set piece from Regueiro saw Olympiakos fail to clear their lines and the ball broke to centre back Albiol on the edge of the box. The defender gave his frontmen a lesson in finishing with his sweet left footed strike which rifled into the corner to make it 3-2 to Valencia.
Che had not finished their though as substitute David Silva put a corner in to Morientes to get his hat-trick in the final minute of the game and make it 4-2 to the visitors and seal the three points for Valencia.
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