Valencia beats Lille 2-0 in Champions League
VALENCIA, Spain (AP) -Jonas scored in each half to give Valencia a 2-0 home win over Lille in the Champions League on Tuesday, boosting its hopes of making the knockout phase after its first victory this season.
Jonas scored in the 38th minute at Mestalla stadium after receiving a pass from Roberto Soldado. The Brazil forward added a second in the 75th with an exquisite lob after Lille had failed to take its scoring chances.
Jonas' fourth and fifth goals in eight Champions League appearances came in an otherwise uninspired performance by the Spanish side.
"This is an important win because it keeps us alive in the competition,'' Jonas said. "It will give us a lot of confidence going forward. Now we can play more freely and with less pressure.''
Also in Group F, BATE Borisov beat Bayern Munich 3-1 to surprisingly top the pool with six points. Valencia and Bayern have three each, with Lille on zero.
"I am surprised by BATE,'' said Valencia coach Mauricio Pellegrino. "Everyone had written them off beforehand, but football has its surprises and gives opportunities to everyone. This complicates the group because even Lille still has the chance to go through.''
Valencia made sure it wouldn't relinquish the ball as easily as it did in its defeat to Bayern two weeks ago. But Lille was patient and looked capable of leveling - having 12 shots in total to seven for Valencia- until Jonas put the result beyond doubt.
"It's tough because we played well in the first half,'' said Lille midfielder Florent Balmont, whose team has lost six straight games overall. "We got chances and missed them. They converted their first. That is efficiency. There is a lot of work to do. We must keep working, and against Bayern anything is possible.''
Lille, which is struggling in the French league in 15th place, was without captain Rio Mavuba, former Chelsea forward Salomon Kalou and midfielder Marvin Martin to injury.
Valencia, for its part, was missing suspended former Lille defender Adil Rami and various injured players, including veteran midfielder David Albelda.
Valencia's Sofiane Feghouli wasted a perfect chance in the ninth minute after Fernando Gago had played him through, only for the forward to fire wide with just the goalkeeper to beat.
Lille settled down in defense and neither team was able to seriously threaten until Balmont came close to finishing off a counterattack and Dimitri Payet forced Valencia goalkeeper Vicente Guaita into a diving save.
But just when Lille was threatening, Jonas put Valencia ahead for good.
Jonas linked up with Roberto Soldado, whose pass took a friendly deflection off a defender for Jonas to volley the ball into the lower corner of the net.
"Soldado made a great pass and half the goal is his,'' Jonas said.
Lille's pressure put Valencia on its back foot early in the second half, with defender Victor Ruiz scrambling to block Ryan Mendes' attempt.
The initiative then swung back to Mauricio Pellegrino's side, and Soldado barely missed high with a header in the 65th.
Jonas sealed the victory when he lofted a ball from the right side that goalkeeper Mickael Landreau touched but was unable to keep out of the far side of his net.
"I have to tell the truth,'' Jonas said. "It was a cross, but I got lucky.''
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