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|Europa League Spanish Review: Valencia and Atletico Madrid claim away wins as Athletic stumble in Moscow|
Third-placed La Liga side Valencia grabbed a crucial away win thanks to a solitary goal from Topal Mehmet while Atletico Madrid came from behind in the Italian capital to carve out a 3-1 victory. But, the icy conditions in Moscow proved too much for Basque outfit Athletic Bilbao as they stumbled to a 2-1 loss.
Los Che faced a difficult task in their trip to Stoke City with the English side having never before being beaten by European opposition at their home ground. However, Unai Emery’s men put to rest this impressive record as they took the stranglehold of this round 32 tie.
Valencia’s Turkish midfielder Topal Mehmet justified his recall to the first team when unleashing an unstoppable drive on 36 minutes. His goal proved to be sufficient in helping the Spanish side claim a one goal first-leg advantage. Stoke, however, did fight until the final whistle and perhaps will consider themselves slightly unlucky as they recorded just as many shots on target as their more experienced visitors.
The return leg will take place next Thursday at Valencia’s Mestalla.
Atletico Madrid's clash with Italian outfit Lazio saw their coach, Diego Simeone, make an emotional return to the club he spent four years as a player. But, it was all business on the field as Los Rojiblancos came from a goal down to record an impressive 3-1 victory.
Atleti’s Columbian striker Radamel Falcao was the hero on the night as he claimed a brace after team-mate Adrian Lopez levelled proceedings shortly after Miroslav Klose had given the hosts the lead inside of twenty minutes.
The result leaves Edy Reja’s side with a monumental task ahead if they are to progress to the round of 16. In a high tempo affair at the Stadio Olimpico, former Juventus ace Diego was inspired form as he provided the assist for Falcao’s first while contributing to the play that saw the former Porto striker claim his second on the night and his 22nd goal in total in Europe’s second-tier competition.
Athletic Bilbao failed to make it a clean sweep for the Spanish contingent in the competition as they succumbed to defeat in difficult conditions in Russia’s capital to Lokomotiv Moscow.
Iker Muniain gave the visitors a deserved lead just after the half hour mark when Markel Susaeta found the 19-year-old with a defence splitting pass. Still in their winter break, the Railwaymen rallied in the second half and levelled matters on the hour mark when Denis Glushakov successfully converted from the spot after Caicedo was adjudged to have been upended by Jon Aurtenetxe.
With the momentum going Lokomotiv’s way, they soon put themselves a goal to the good when Caicedo forced the ball home from a Renat Yanbaev cross.
Having dominated large parts of the match in the freezing conditions, the Basque side will consider themselves a little unlucky. However, they will take home to Spain an all-important away goal that ensures this tie is far from over just yet.