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Santi Mina makes sure Neville's birthday has a party

Valencia romped to a 6-0 win over Rapid Viena on a great night for the four Spanish teams in Europa League action. Villarreal 1-0 Napoli; Sevilla 3-0 Molde; Marseille 0-1 Athletic Club.

Álvaro Negredo celebrates with man-of-the-match Santi Mina
Álvaro Negredo celebrates with man-of-the-match Santi MinaKai FörsterlingEFE

Following tonight’s merciless rout against Rapid Viena at Mestalla, Álvaro Negredo candidly spoke about the effect Pako Ayestarán’s arrival to Gary Neville’s coaching staff has had on Los Che. The proof was in the pudding on Thursday night. Whether it was because players like Santi Mina had a point to prove or the Europa League presented the beleaguered LaLiga outfit with a blank slate on which to eke out something positive in an otherwise disastrous season, Neville’s charges produced one of the finest first half performances on the European stage in living memory.

Never before had Valencia gone into the break against a European opponent five goals to the good. The massive lead was in huge part down to the phenomenal display of the aforementioned Santi Mina. Few players could have provided the 41-year-old manager with a better birthday present than the young Galician, who netted twice and provided three assists against the Austrian side. Mina was at the heart of everything during the first 45 minutes, first stirring an André Gomes pass goalward shortly after kick off, then finding Parejo alone with just the keeper to beat, before being the sharpest player in the away team’s box to poke in Valencia’s third. As if controlled by a higher power he then set up the fourth and fifth goals for Negredo and André Gomes respectively.

The 2,600 travelling supporters couldn’t believe what they were seeing. Nor too could the few home fans who were sparsely dotted around the 55,000 seater stadium. Valencia went into the half-time break with their passage to the round of 16 already secured. The English man’s line-up showed he was taking the Europa League seriously (he picked as strong a back line as was available to him and the inclusion of Parejo provided steel in midfield), while the names he left out (presumably with the weekend’s match against Granada in mind) showed that his main priority continues to be rectifying the league situation. All in all a very happy birthday for a man who has been through the wringer since moving to Spain. Even Rodrigo Moreno joined in on the celebrations, scoring the sixth of the night.

How the other Spanish teams fared

Holders Sevilla have one foot in the last 16 after beating Molde of Norway 3-0 at the Sanchez Pizjuan with Fernando Llorente netting twice before Kevin Gameiro wrapped up the win. Villarreal beat Serie A visitors Napoli 1-0 via a late goal from Denis Suarez, and Athletic Bilbao completed a fine night for clubs from La Liga as they won 1-0 at Marseille thanks to a stunning volley by Aritz Aduriz, the veteran striker scoring his 26th goal of the season.

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