The 41-year-old was screaming his displeasure at the concession of an early free-kick but by half-time he was pretty much skipping down the tunnel. Santi Mina was the creator-in-chief, breaking the deadlock after just four minutes and later adding another, plus three assists. Rapid Wien were 5-0 down inside 35 minutes – there is no coming back from that.
Instead the focus fell on shoring up the flanks that were so often exposed in the first half. All five goals emanated from the flanks, André Gomes setting the tone as he got to the byline before pulling the ball back for Santi Mina to convert the opener. The 20-year-old forward then turned provider, playing in Daniel Parejo for the second on ten minutes.
Santi Mina struck another from point-blank range – Pablo Piatti supplying the cross this time – before underlining his growing confidence with the move that led to goal No4. He flicked the ball past Maximilian Hofmann, nodded it on, then delivered a perfect cross for Álvaro Negredo.
At that stage the round of 32 first leg was heading for a 12-0 scoreline and Gomes maintained the rate, before Valencia switched to cruise control. Rapid rallied but to no avail, with Rodrigo’s late goal completing a 6-0 victory to match Steaua’s competition record at home to AaB in 2014.
Santi Mina has arrived
The youngster announced himself to Spanish football fans with four goals in a game for Celta Vigo last April – now he has done the same on the European stage. He was unplayable at the Mestalla, running Hofmann ragged on the right. Three devastating crosses brought three goals, and when he ventured inside he scored two more himself.
Gary Neville’s dream birthday
The Englishman has not had the most enjoyable of introductions to life in Spain. He had to wait ten fixtures for a first Liga win and then there was the ignominy of a 7-0 drubbing by Barcelona in the Copa del Rey. What a difference a week makes! After a morale-boosting draw with Barça there was the duck-breaking success over Espanyol and now this. Things are looking up.