Liga - Valverde’s Valencia start with scrappy win

La Liga, Estadio Reyna de Navarra – Osasuna 0 Valencia 1 (Soldado, 55)

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Ernesto Valverde

Ernesto Valverde’s reign as Valencia manager began with a 1-0 win at Osasuna thanks to a poacher’s finish from Roberto Soldado.

Soldado netted nine minutes into the second half after Pablo Piatti’s mis-hit cross came into his path off the woodwork.

Osasuna tried to level but chances were few and far between as a poor match concluded without incident, Valencia closing out a victory that puts them in the top half of the table.

A dire first half ended goalless as both sides failed to get their passing together, Osasuna renowned for their defensive work and Valencia struggling to get a sniff.

Indeed, there was only one shot on target – from Osasuna midway through the first half – although Valencia picked up the pace late in the period as Soldado, Tino Costa and Sofiane Feghouli put wide from good positions.

Otherwise it was a long-ball state of affirs, with neither side really using their talented midfields effectively as passes tended to switch from defence to attack.

The second half started somewhat brighter as Alejandro Arribas’s goal-bound header was cleared off the line by Pablo Piatti, while Soldado profited from a quickly taken set-piece down the other end as he was denied by Andres Fernandez.

When the opener came it was fortuitous to say the least – Piatti’s cross was dreadful, but it swung off the top of the bar into Soldado’s path, the arch poacher making no mistake from close range.

Osasuna tried to battle back but the lack of opportunity in the game was no accident – Valencia sat deep to rebuff the hosts’ advances, Joseba Llorente putting one effort over, while Roland Lamah forced a good save from Diego Alves, his first of note.

The final minutes descended back into a dirge as fouls, poor passing and a lack of creative inspiration saw little of note impact either end, aside from a Fernandez save when Soldado greedily shot instead of picking out the unmarked Jonathan Viera.

Defeat means Osasuna could fall into the relegation zone if results go against them on Sunday, while Valencia are on 21 points with a cluster of teams just outside the European places.

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