Valencia beats Monaco 3-1 in Champions League playoff
VALENCIA, Spain (AP) Valencia forward Sofiane Feghouli scored after setting up the opener to lead the Spanish club to a 3-1 win over Monaco on Wednesday in the first leg of their Champions League playoff.
Feghouli assisted Rodrigo Moreno to score in the fourth minute as the hosts had a strong start at Mestalla Stadium.
Monaco settled down and found its deserved equalizer when Mario Pasalic netted in the 49th, only for midfielder Dani Parejo to restore Valencia's lead 10 minutes later against the flow of play.
Feghouli drove in a strike in the 86th to give Valencia a cushion for next Tuesday's second leg.
Valencia's new owner Peter Lim charged his team with securing a return to Europe's top-tier tournament this season. The team coached by Nuno Espirito Santo is now 90 minutes away from meeting its goal.
''We started strong, but it was normal that after 15 to 20 minutes we couldn't keep up the pace,'' Feghouli said. ''But we controlled the match and we should feel confident for the return leg.''
Valencia can also feel good about the promising debut of Australia goalkeeper Matthew Ryan.
Valencia quickly had Monaco backpedaling in pursuit of its faster forwards from the opening whistle.
Feghouli pushed the attack from the right flank and slipped behind his defender to head Ricardo de Paul's cross back for two unmarked teammates waiting in the goalmouth. Moreno beat Paco Alcacer to the ball to tap it home.
Monaco limited the damage during the early surge and went looking for an equalizer before halftime. Bernardo Silva took over the playmaking duties from the injured Joao Moutinho and also went the closest with a strike which Ryan grazed enough to deflect onto his far post in the 33rd.
Valencia was without center back Nicolas Otamendi, rumored to be on the move to Manchester City, and replacement Ruben Vezo's clumsy clearance cost the hosts the lead.
Pasalic leveled when an off-balanced Vezo left Anthony Martial's cross for Pasalic to fire in.
But with Monaco pressing, Parejo volleyed in a cross knocked down by substitute Pablo Piatti, who had gone on three minutes before, to make it 2-1.
Ryan had to stretch again to turn away substitute Nabil Dirar's header in the 70th before Feghouli blasted a rebound through a crowded area.