Champions League - Valencia claim second spot with Lille win

Champions League Group F, Grand Stade Lille Métropole – LOSC Lille 0 Valencia 1 (Jonas 36)

Valencia condemned Lille to their worst ever Champions League campaign with a 1-0 victory in their Group F match at the Grand Stade Lille Métropole.

Brazilian midfielder Jonas won and converted a penalty late in the first half, but Valencia had to settle for second place after ending their group campaign on 13 points, level with Bayern Munich but behind the German side because of a worse head-to-head record.

Lille finished bottom with three points, three adrift of Europa League-bound BATE Borisov.

The French side were very much out of sorts in the opening half and rarely troubled the Valencia goalkeeper. They came into the match in the second half and will feel aggrieved not to have got something out of the game, considering the immense amount of pressure they applied to the visitors’ defence in the closing stages.

Vicente Guaita was forced into making some smart saves during the dying minutes, but the Spanish side’s custodian turned the ball away time-after time, ensuring his side all three points and a place in the knockout stage of the Champions League.

In a game where Valencia knew they had to better the result of Bayern to top the group, the opening 45 minutes were a rather dull and erroneous affair with both sides struggling to create anything of real note. Lille controlled the ball in the opening quarter of an hour and went on the attack right from kick off, with Ronny Rodelin bursting down the left flank before firing a dangerous ball towards the lurking Gianni Bruno. The pass had too much on it, though, and ran through to Valencia keeper Guaita.

The first half-chance came on the 25 minute mark as young full-back Lucas Digne’s dangerous set-piece was met by the head of the towering Marko Basa. The centre-half was off balance as he met the ball and could only turn his header over the bar from six yards.

Brazilian Jonas traded a one-two with Tino Costa on the half-hour mark which allowed him some space to send an effort on goal. It was hit well but was too straight and flew into the grateful arms of Steeve Elana.

Jonas was in the thick of the action just moments later as he earned his side a penalty.

Andres Guardado showed a turn of pace down the left to skip past the challenge of Franck Beria, pulling the ball back into the feet of his team mate.

Jonas creatively flicked the ball over the challenging foot of Basa to burst through on goal. Montenegrin Basa had his hands all over the Brazilian as he looked to get goal side of the man but could do nothing other than pull his opponent to the floor.

The defender was booked for his troubles, although he could have seen red, and was made to watch the man who won the penalty step up to slam the ball past the Lille custodian from 12 yards.

The opening 10 minutes of the second half continued in the same scrappy fashion of which the first half had ended but soon picked up with Lille getting a foothold in the game.

The very impressive Digne continued to cause havoc down the left flank and tested Guaita on a number of occasions with first-time shots and dangerous ball from promising areas.

With 15 minutes gone in the second half the hosts came inches away from an equaliser. Substitute Marvin Martin’s deep corner fell to the feet of Rodelin who controlled well before driving a vicious volley at goal from 10 yards. For the only time of the evening, Guaita was beaten as the ball flew past him and two covering defenders on its way into the back of the net only for striker Nelson Valdez to make a superbly well-timed challenge on the line, hooking the ball away to safety.

The home crowd picked up and got behind their team, spurring then on towards goal. The hugely unimpressive Bruno was sent through on goal but lacked the prowess and confidence to pull away from the trailing Adil Rami and attempt to beat Guaita. Instead he opted to shoot from 18 yards and skewed his effort wide.

Valencia continued to defend well when required but looked content and confident in holding onto the lead.

Jonas could have added a second of the night after a smart interchange between himself, Valdez and David Albelda. The quick, sharp passing allowed some space for the Brazilian to send a curling effort narrowly past the right-hand post.

Salomon Kalou tested Guaita with just five minutes to go from the left of the penalty area but the 2012 Champions League winner was unable to beat the Valencia keeper at the near post under pressure.

Substiute Dimitri Payet then bent a wonderful effort onto the bar from the right of the penalty area before Guaita produced a lightning-quick reaction to save to deny Nolan Roux a headed goal with just three minutes to go.

Bayern Munich ran out comfortable 4-1 winners in the other Group F match meaning that Valencia could do no better than second place.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Vicente Guaita – Valencia: In a game of little quality, the Valencia keeper kept a cool head and was alert when required despite having little to do in the opening hour. He produced a string of fine saves in the closing stages to ensure his side all three points.

PLAYER RATINGS

LILLE: Elana 7; Beria 5, Basa 4, Chedjou 6, Digne 7; Gueye 5, Mavuba 5, Balmont 6; Kalou 5, Rodelin 5, Bruno 4. Subs: Payet 5, Martin 6, Roux 5.

VALENCIA: Guaita 8; Ricardo Costa 5, Rami 5, Victor Ruiz 5, Cissokho 6; Costa 5, Albelda 5, Feghouli 6, Jonas 7, Guardado 5; Valdez 6. Subs: Gago 5, Piatti 6, Viera 5.

MATCHCAST: FULL COMMENTARY AND STATS