Under pressure, Valencia gets needed win vs. Granada in La Liga
VALENCIA, Spain (AP) — Valencia secured a much-needed 1-0 win over Granada in the Spanish league on Friday for its first home victory of the season.
Center back Shkodran Mustafi headed in what proved to be the winner in the 26th minute, and goalkeeper Jaume Domenech made the saves his team needed to take the points.
Valencia's disgruntled fans had called for coach Nuno Espirito Santo to be fired after its last match at Mestalla Stadium, which ended in a draw. That was followed by a 1-0 defeat at Espanyol on Tuesday.
Despite the win that pushed Valencia into a provisional sixth place, applause mixed with jeers after the final whistle.
"I have always believed that we are a team that has to work to win, we aren't a team that wins easily," Mustafi said. "Today we demonstrated that we are a group."
Valencia next travels to France to play at Lyon in the Champions League on Tuesday, after losing its European opener at home to Zenit St. Petersburg.
Granada has lost four matches in a row and five of six matches this season.
"The result is unfair because I think we showed we were the better team, hitting the bar and creating more chances," said Ruben Rochina, whose Granada was left in the relegation zone in 18th place. "I am proud of how this team played tonight. With this attitude we will turn this around."
Valencia won the better share of possession in the first half, and went ahead after Granada's Javier Marquez tested Domenech with the match's first scoring chance in the 23rd.
Shortly after, Mustafi dove to thump Zakaria Bakkali's well-placed cross from the opposite right flank past goalie Andres Fernandez, who got a hand on the header but couldn't keep it out.
Granada almost equalized three minutes later when Youssef El Arabi turned Isaac Success' pass off the crossbar.
Domenech again had to spring into action to make a one-handed save of Rochina's free kick to protect the hosts' advantage just before halftime.
After the restart Marquez slotted a low strike through Valencia's packed area but Domenech got low to smother it, and a nervous murmuring in the stands was heard in the final minutes as Granada pushed Valencia into its box searching for the draw.
Leader Real Madrid hosts Malaga on Saturday, while Barcelona welcomes Las Palmas looking to bounce back from its stinging 4-1 loss at Celta Vigo. Second-place Celta visits Eibar later that night.