VALENCIA, Spain: Goals from Rodrigo, Dani Parejo and Sofiane Feghouli handed Valencia a 3-1 advantage going into the second leg of their Champions League play-off against Monaco at the Mestalla on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila).
The Spanish side got off to the perfect start when Rodrigo tapped home the opener after only four minutes, but Monaco rallied and leveled early in the second-half through Mario Pasalic.
However, last season’s quarter-finalists were undone by poor defending as Parejo’s deflected effort and a late strike from Feghouli put Valencia in the driving seat for a return to the group stages for the first time in three years.
The sides will meet again in the principality next Tuesday.
“I value the victory. It was a good game and fundamental for us to win today,” said Valencia boss Nuno Espirito Santo.
“It is a game that has been in our heads since the last league game in Almeria.
“I value the effort of the players and the support of the fans.”
However, Monaco boss Leonardo Jardim believed his side deserved more and blasted the performance of English referee Mark Clattenburg.
“Unfortunately last season in the quarter-finals there were many refereeing errors,” he said.
“To happen again in the play-offs is not positive for UEFA, for Monaco, for France and UEFA ought to respect France as they do other countries.”
Monaco was without the influential Joao Moutinho and Layvin Kur¬zawa through injury and Kurzawa’s replacement Elderson endured a torrid time as Valencia got off to a flying start.
The Nigerian allowed Feghouli in behind to head a cross from the left back across goal and that left Rodrigo with the easiest of finishes to put the hosts in front.