A Stefan Mitrovic own goal 18 minutes from time handed Valencia a vital 2-1 win over Gent on Tuesday to edge the Spaniards closer to the last 16 of the Champions League.
A strong start from Valencia was rewarded when a combination of Sofiane Feghouli and Gent defender Lasse Nielsen opened the scoring for the hosts from close range, but Gent went in level at the break thanks to a stunning strike from Thomas Foket.
However, a better second-half display from the Belgian champions was undone when Mitrovic turned Jose Luis Gaya’s effort into his own net.
Victory strengthens Valencia’s position in second place in Group H, five points ahead of Gent and Lyon, who lost 3-1 to group leaders Zenit St Petersburg.
“The first half was the best we have played all season. We should have finished the game earlier, but the goals will come,” Valencia boss Nuno Espirito Santo told BeIN Sports.
“Gent are a very well-organised team with a good striker that caused us a lot of problems. Now we have to go there and I am sure it will be a difficult game.”
Valencia should have had the game well wrapped up by half-time, but were left to rue some wayward finishing and brilliant goalkeeping by Matz Sels.
Santi Mina missed a one-on-one with the Gent ‘keeper after eight minutes before Shkodran Mustafi headed over when unmarked from a corner 10 yards out.
The opener did arrive on 15 minutes when Feghouli swept home his third European goal of the season from Joao Cancelo’s cross with the help of Nielsen.
Sels then made a fantastic double save from Mina and Dani Parejo and was called into action again from the resulting corner as he parried Santos’s header.
However, the Mestalla was stunned five minutes before the break when Foket broke forward and fired a spectacular shot into the top corner.
A much more evenly balanced second period ensued as nerves crept into a Valencia side that has struggled in La Liga so far this season.
Spanish international Paco Alcacer should have restored the hosts’ lead when he clipped the ball over the bar with just Sels to beat.
Yet Valencia got the slice of luck they needed when Cancelo’s cross came back off the crossbar and Gaya’s follow-up effort rebounded off Mitrovic and into his own net.
Gent could still have salvaged a point, but Jaume Domenech came to Valencia’s rescue with a stunning stop to deny Thomas Matton 10 minutes from time.