First Division - Day 4

Valencia 5 - Las Palmas 1

Valencia: Cañizares; Anglomá, Djukic, Ayala, Carboni; Mendieta, Zahovic, Baraja, Kily González (Vicente 78'); Juan Sánchez (Milla 70'); Carew (Diego Alonso 78'). 4-4-2.
Las Palmas: Cicovic; Ramón (Alex 62'), Schurrer, Jaime Molina, Paqui; Pablo Lago, Josico, Jorge, Jarni; Eloy, Oulare (Toddi 73'). 4-4-2.

Team changes: Valencia: Ayala, Zahovic, Kily González, Carew for Pellegrino, Milla, Vicente, Diego Alonso / Las Palmas: Josico, Jorge, Oulare for Olías, Samways, Orlando.

1-0. 22. Sánchez. Ran on to long through ball headed on by Carew.
2-0. 24. Zahovic. Turned and shot inside area after pass from Sánchez.
3-0. 58. Sánchez. Shot past Cicovic after pinpoint pass from Carew.
4-0. 63. Carew. Headed ball past keeper after free kick from Mendieta.
4-1. 82. Toddi. Another header from a long free kick.
5-1. 92. Vicente. Individualist goal, controlled ball and beat keeper.

Valencia registered their sixth consecutive victory and their eleventh in a row at home to take them up to second place in the first division. Last season at this stage in the league they only had one point, but even then went on to finish runners up in the European Champions League and third in the Spanish league. This year Héctor Cúper has been able to build on that success, with players brimming with confidence as they take apart lesser teams such as today's opponents, Las Palmas. Cúper is rapidly becoming one of the most sought after managers in Europe after transforming Mallorca and then moving on to do the same with Valencia. Despite losing such key players as Piojo López, Gerard and Farinós, they have managed to fill the gaps wisely, and Cúper is a master at getting the best out of players such as Juan Sánchez, who is now the league's top scorer (two more in this game) after expecting to spend most of the season as substitute.

Although expected to keep a largely unchanged side, Cúper gave a start to two of his new signings who up to now had not come up to expectations, Carew and Zahovic, and both took their opportunity to show that they can be part of the manager's plans. They both got their first goals in the league and contributed to an excellent display of football, with Carew also laying on both goals for Sánchez, and Zahovic (who got his first goal against Lyon midweek) showing that he is equally at home at the front of midfield as in attack. Another last minute signing Ayala came in to the defence for his first match and also proved that he is worthy of a place, and Kily González returned on the left of midfield having missed a game through injury. The Argentinian international has just signed for a new contract which will keep him at the club until 2007, but if he ever wants to leave, Valencia already have a replacement, Spanish under 21 international Vicente coming on for the last fifteen minutes of this match and scoring his third goal in three part-games.

And what of Las Palmas, ask those of you who were recently there on holiday? They have made a bad start so far and are currently lying next to bottom with two points from the four games. The reinforcements they brought in are not paying off so far, with the Oktay scandal getting worse each day. Having been suspended without pay for a week he returned to training, only to be thrown out again for fighting with local bar owner and sometime midfielder Vinny Samways. According to reports, Oktay had won a bet against Vinny over some match, and Vinny asked for a chance to win his money back on a game that they were watching from the Olympic games (tiddlywinks or something). Oktay agreed, but was rather miffed to find out that the game was not live, and that Vinny already knew the result. The two players had to be pulled apart, and both Oktay and Samways were suspended for a week. The Turkish striker now says he will not play for the club again, adding that his family have been threatened by English fans holidaying in the island.

That left Kresic without either of them, and with Edu Alonso injured, Josico and a promising youngster, Jorge, came in to midfield. They were no match for Mendieta, Baraja and company though, and showed up the lack of depth of the squad when key players are missing. The only ray of light was Iceland's Toddi, who had rather faded away after a good pre-season. He came on for the last twenty minutes and got the consolation goal during a lapse of concentration of the home team defence. A better side could have got one or two more, particularly at the start of the second half when the Valencia defenders went to sleep, but at this level if you don't take your chances you are stuffed. Las Palmas were, well and truly, with cranberry sauce and Christmas pudding for afters. They are going to have a long hard season to survive. Let's hope for the sake of watching a good match on your winter break that they do.