First Division - Day 30

Valencia 1 - Alavés 2

Valencia: Cañizares; Ayala, Djukic, Björklund; Angulo, Baraja, Fabio Aurelio; Mendieta (Diego Alonso 77'), Aimar (Zahovic 70'), Vicente (Juan Sánchez 55'); Carew. 3-3-3-1.
Alavés: Herrera; Contra, Eggen, Téllez, Geli; Desio, Pablo; Tomic (Magno 55'), Jordi Cruyff, Ibon Begoña (Karmona 80'); Iván Alonso (Vucko 71'). 4-2-3-1.

Team changes: Valencia: Djukic, Björklund, Fabio Aurelio, Vicente, Aimar for Angloma, Pellegrino, Carboni, Kily González, Juan Sánchez / Alavés: Pablo, Jordi Cruyff for Astudillo, Magno.

0-1. 07. Mendieta (own goal). Ball hit him on head after Iván Alonso shot blocked.
1-1. 17. Vicente. Toe-poked ball into net after Herrera dropped cross.
1-2. 73. Eggen. Diving header on far post after long centre from right.

High flying Alavés defeated a depleted Valencia side at the Mestalla stadium to move up to sixth place in the league table. Both sides had one eye on their midweek games in Europe, but with Alavés not playing until Thursday and with a comfortable first leg lead in the bag against Kaiserslauten, Mané decided he could risk a virtually full strength side for this match. Javi Moreno was still not fully recovered from his injury playing for Spain though, and on form Iván Alonso, cousin of Valencia's Diego, started the match up front. Cúper though had a more pressing engagement, having to overcome a 2-1 negative scoreline against Aesenal on Tuesday, and he left out five of his first choice players, including Kily González who was injured. Taking a leaf out of John Toshack's book, he lined up a novel 3-3-3-1 formation, with Carew alone up front and Björklund and Fabio Aurelio coming in for a rare start.

The big Norwegian striker had the first scoring chance of the match in the first minute, but Contra cleared the ball over the bar. Then in the seventh minute the visitors took the lead with a fortunate goal, Iván Alonso's close range shot being parried by Cañizares, only for the ball to strike Mendieta on the head and bounce back in to the net. Valencia got back in the game with a quarter of an hour gone after an uncharacteristic mistake from Herrera, the keeper dropping Angulo's cross under pressure for Vicente to nip in and force the ball home. Valencia's extra man in midfield enabled them to control the centre of the park as Alavés fell back to defend, but they couldn't convert their advantage into goals.

Just after the break Cúper had to take off Vicente with a groin strain which makes him doubtful for Tuesday's game, Juan Sánchez coming on to add weight to the attack. Their closest efforts though came from a defender, Ayala, who had scored twice in the last ten days, but this time his he had less luck, with two headers in a ten minute period hitting the woodwork. Herrera saved from Angulo, but with everything going Valencia's way, Alavés took the lead on the counterattack, Eggen getting ahead of a slow defence to head down past Cañizares from close range.

The Alonsos missed each other by a few minutes, Iván being replaced by Vucko and Diego coming on for Mendieta six minutes later as Cúper added a third forward. But there was no way past the visitors defence as Karmona came on to protect the lead, and Valencia lose ground on the top two, falling five points behind Deportivo. Some of their supporters waited for Cúper after the game, calling for him to leave immediately. His replacement will probably be the man who was on the other bench, Mané, with two of his squad, Contra and Javi Moreno, tipped to join him. Right now though he has a job to do in Vitoria, trying to assure a place in next season's European competitions just in case they don't win the UEFA cup next month. This was a good step in that direction.