Valencia, Spain, Nov 24: Roberto Soldado's first-half hat trick led Valencia to a 7-0 thrashing of Genk on Wednesday to set up a final group game at Chelsea with a place in the last 16 of the Champions League at stake.
Soldado scored in the 13th, 36th and 40th minutes after Jonas had hit a 10th-minute opener. Goals from Pablo Hernandez, Aritz Aduriz and Tino Costa turned the result into a rout in the second half.
The 26-year-old Soldado has scored 13 goals in all competitions this season and five in his last two games, bringing comparisons with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as being among the best strikers in the Spanish league.
“This was a very important game for us. It was a final,” Soldado said. “Fortunately, it was a game that gave us a lot of confidence which we will take forward.”
Valencia will head to Stamford Bridge on Dec. 6 with the same number of points as Chelsea, one behind Group E leader Bayer Leverkusen. Chelsea lost 2-1 at Leverkusen in the other group match.
“We played a complete game, but now we have to forget about this good win and focus on the last game and our chances to advance,” Valencia coach Unai Emery said. “We achieved our objective today. Now there is just one last step, although it will be the hardest.”
Genk had held Valencia to a 0-0 draw in their first meeting, but the Belgian champions were outclassed from the start at Mestalla stadium and this loss condemned them to last place in the group and no chance of reaching the Europa League.
Knowing that his team needed a win, Emery selected both Soldado and Jonas in attack—and they quickly proved their coach's choice was the right one.
Jonas scored his third goal of the competition by muscling past his marker to reach Costa's cross and send a powerful header into the corner of the net.
The Brazilian international then set up Soldado by threading a long pass between Genk's central defenders, allowing the Spanish striker to cut back onto his right foot and roll the ball past goalkeeper Laszlo Koteles.
Down by two goals, Genk briefly showed some intent.
Genk midfielder Fabien Camus drew a save from goalkeeper Diego Alves in the 32nd, and teammate Anthony Vanden Borre's attempt skidded wide of the far post shortly after.
Koteles did well to parry attempts from Costa and Jonas, but couldn't keep out Soldado's rising shot when Jonas broke through the defense and completed another excellent long pass to his strike partner.
“I am taking advantage of the chances I get,” said Jonas, who joined Valencia midway through last season. “I think this was my best game with Valencia, with a goal and assists.”
Genk's defense then fell apart.
Pablo Hernandez was left free on the right flank to send a low cross to the far post for the unmarked Soldado to tap in.
Hernandez received Jonas' short pass, picked his spot and fired into the corner of the net in the 68th. Two minutes later, substitute striker Aduriz held off two defenders before scoring from close range, and Costa banged in a loose ball in the 81st to cap the dominating performance.