Valencia boss Nuno helps bring the feelgood factor back to Mestalla

Andy West 6/10/2014
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On the up: Valencia boss Nuno.

Valencia manager Nuno has vowed his team will continue to improve after their impressive dismantling of champions Atletico Madrid.

Los Che maintained their excel­lent start to the season by blowing Atletico away in the early stages, racing into a three-goal lead inside the opening quarter of an hour, with an own goal from visiting defender Miranda and strikes from Andre Gomes and Nicolas Otamendi, and then producing a solid second-half to secure a 3-1 victory on Saturday.

Nuno’s side have now amassed 17 points from their unbeaten start to the campaign, winning five games and drawing two, and this week­end’s triumph over Atletico allowed them to claim sole possession of second place.

The Portuguese boss, who arrived from Rio Ave in the summer to replace the sacked Juan Antonio Pizzi, said: “Beating Atletico was a great day, but our best day is in the future. I am optimistic and I believe we will get better.”

Valencia’s outstanding early season form has been rapturously  received by fans who had been dis­mayed by a poor couple of seasons during a turbulent period which has seen no less than six managers in little more than two years.

With Singapore-based business­man Peter Lim poised to finally complete his drawn-out takeover of the club, a much-needed positive atmosphere has finally returned to Mestalla, typified by captain Dani Parejo who added: “There’s a real chemistry with the fans and that gives us strength.

“Something special is happen­ing between us and the supporters which makes Mestalla a very diffi­cult ground for visiting teams.

“I can understand the fans are excited. We haven’t lost against our direct rivals like Sevilla and Real Sociedad, and now we have beaten Atletico who are the defending champions.”

However, Parejo also cautioned fans against getting carried away by adding: “We’ll see how it all unfolds week by week and if by the end, when there are seven or eight games left and we are still in the running, then we might be able to say we want to win the league.”

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Ronaldo fires another hat-trick as Madrid hit five

Andy West 6/10/2014
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Dancing his way through the defence: Cristiano Ronaldo joins Telmo Zarra and Alfredo Di Stefano with the most hat-tricks in La Liga history.

Cristiano Ronaldo netted yet another hat-trick – his third in a fortnight – as Madrid produced their most complete performance of the season to destroy hopeless Athletic Bilbao at the Bernabeu.

Ronaldo got the ball rolling with an early header and went on to complete his treble, while Karim Benzema continued his good form with a brace in a game which saw the hosts create at least a dozen good chances.

They only needed two minutes to take the lead, with a long passing move culminating in Dani Carva­jal charging down the right to find Gareth Bale, whose deep cross was easily headed home at the far post by the unmarked Ronaldo.

Madrid were completely on top during the opening exchanges and Ronaldo nearly scored again after seven minutes, forcing visiting keeper Gorka Iraizoz into a low save at his near post.

Although they always looked vul­nerable in defence, Athletic slowly improved during the middle phase and Iker Muniain seriously tested Iker Casillas for the first time with a beautifully executed long-range dipping volley, but the home keeper pushed the ball over the bar.

Shortly before the interval Bale and Benzema combined danger­ously on the edge of the box and the loose ball dropped into the path of Ronaldo, who seemed certain to score until Iraizoz raced off his line to block his close-range shot.

But the reprieve was just tempo­rary as the subsequent corner was swung over from the right by Luka Modric and Benzema rose high to head home.

The onslaught continued in the second half, with Madrid’s ‘BBC’ frontline of Bale, Benzema and Cristiano running riot and looking capable of scoring every time they attacked.

Bale should have made it 3-0 but fired over after being teed up by Ronaldo, but the Welshman soon redeemed himself by running onto Benzema’s clever flick and roll­ing an inch-perfect low right-wing cross for Ronaldo to convert.

Athletic’s defence was alarm­ingly open and it was no surprise when the fourth was added with frightening ease, as Modric’s pass found Ronaldo in oceans of room and he squared a simple pass to the unmarked Benzema for a tap-in.

Modric then tried his luck with a long-range strike which Iraizoz saved with discomfort before then denying Ronaldo his hat-trick with a low stop, and it was simply a question of how many more goals the home team would add against their utterly dispirited opposition who just wanted the game to end.

The overworked Iraizoz saved well from Ronaldo’s header and then made a miraculous stop to deny Bale a deserved goal, while Casillas kept out Mikel Balenziaga’s close-range effort from a corner.

Inevitably, Ronaldo had the final word as he completed his hat-trick with arguably the worst goal he’ll ever score, inadvertently deflecting Pepe’s wayward effort into the net with his elbow. 

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Juventus end Roma’s perfect run in thrilling style

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Main man: Leonardo Bonucci (c) after striking Juventus’ decisive third of the night.

Leonardo Bonucci struck the winner four minutes from time as Juventus ended Roma’s perfect run this season.

The game between the top two in Turin looked to be heading for a 2-2 draw before Bonucci drilled a right-footed volley past Roma goalkeeper Lukasz Skorupski.

Both teams ended the game down to 10 men after Alvaro Morata and Roma defender Kostas Manolas were shown a straight red for clashing on the sideline.

Roma had gone into the contest riding a five-match winning run in the league while Juventus had Andrea Pirlo making his first appearance since the World Cup.

The hosts created the first danger in the 11th minute when Claudio Marchisio’s 15-yard shot was saved by Skorupski.

The referee then awarded Juve a penalty after his assistant spotted a handball by Roma defender Maicon from Pirlo’s free-kick. Carlos Tevez struck the spot-kick towards the far post and out of Skorupski’s reach.

Juve’s joy was shortlived as Roma were given a penalty after Stephan Lichtsteiner was adjudged to have pulled back Francesco Totti in the box. Totti made no mistake and struck the ball past Gianluigi Buffon.

The goal inspired the visitors, who went in front when Gervinho sent Iturbe through and the Argentine beat the offside trap and coolly struck a left-footed shot from 15 yards past Buffon.

Roma conceded another penalty before the interval when Miralem Pjanic tripped Paul Pogba in the area. Tevez again stepped up to take the spot-kick and found the bottom left corner of the goal to make it 2-2.

On the hour mark, Pjanic should have done better but failed to get a touch on Gervinho’s dangerous cross at the far post.

The hosts were unlucky not to go in front in the 81st minute when Morata’s powerful header from Lichsteiner’s cross hit the crossbar but Bonucci came to the rescue when Roma cleared a corner straight at the defender and his powerful volley beat Skorupski.

With one minute remaining, Morata and Manolas were sent off, the Greek reacting violently after being fouled by the Spanish striker.

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