SPORTS

Simply unable to win away

Goals on either side of halftime from Miguel Angel Angulo and Fernando Morientes gave injury-ravaged Valencia a 2-0 win at home over Olympiakos on Wednesday that assured them of first place in the Champions League’s Group D. Olympiakos, who had not won on the road in their previous 30 away matches in the Champions League, made a bright start at the Mestalla Stadium, but fell behind when Angulo curled a shot into the far corner on the stroke of halftime. Valencia scored again a minute after the break, Morientes scoring his fourth goal against the Greek side this season with a trademark header at the far post after midfielder David Silva had floated in a fine cross from the left. With AS Roma slipping to a 1-0 defeat at Shakhtar Donetsk, Valencia tops the group with 13 points, six clear of the Serie A side, and eight ahead of the Ukrainians. Olympiakos is at the bottom with two points. The Reds needed to notch up that elusive away win if they were to have any hope of progressing to the knockout round and, with Rivaldo at the helm, they made a promising enough start. The Brazilian midfielder forced a sharp save from Santiago Canizares in the fourth minute when he unleashed a fierce half-volley from the edge of the area. Substitute Milos Maric, who came on for the injured Michalis Constantinou after a quarter of an hour, was denied by another fine save from Canizares midway through the half when the Valencia keeper tipped his goalbound free kick over the bar. Valencia’s chances of victory appeared to have suffered a major blow after striker David Villa joined the club’s lengthening list of injury victims when he was forced off with what appeared to be a thigh strain in the 22nd minute. But Quique Sanchez Flores’s side rose to the challenge and Olympiakos keeper Antonis Nikopolidis had to produce an impressive one-handed save to turn a diving header from Silva round the post moments later. They got the breakthrough, however, in the final minute of the half when midfielder Angulo cut inside Ieroklis Stoltidis after a neat move on the left and sent a shot curling past Nikopolidis and into the far corner. Morientes, who had come on in place of Villa, doubled Valencia’s lead, rising high above the defense to power home a superb cross from Silva at the far post. Joaquin almost added a third when he dinked a clever chip over the keeper after jinking his way into the area, but his shot was cleared off the line and he then hit the bar with a stunning free kick taken from the right-hand touch line. «We had three unlucky moments. The first one was the injury of Constantinou, the second was the time of the first goal and the third was the other goal that came at the restart and made us lose our courage,» said Olympiakos manager Trond Sollied. He added: »I know what is going wrong and I will tell only the president. We would have liked to have the perfect defense but this most of the time cannot be found in football.» Olympiakos now needs a win at home over Shakhtar Donetsk on December 5 to secure a spot in the UEFA Cup’s round of 32. (Reuters, Kathimerini)