VALENCIA, August 26 (Primera Liga) - Valencia underlined why they have been tipped to provide a serious challenge to perennial favourites Barcelona and Real Madrid in the Primera Liga this season by securing three points from their opening game against Real Betis on Saturday.
Los Che have splashed out in the close season in an effort to close the gap on Spain's leading two clubs and one of their acquisitions - Fernando Morientes - got them off the mark with the opener in the 33rd minute.
Betis rarely threatened throughout but nevertheless managed to equalise, completely against the run of play, when Xisco - a former Valencia player - headed home eight minutes into the second half.
Valencia deservedly went back in front, through centre-back Raul Albiol, and had other chances to make the scoreline even more convincing before the final whistle blew.
The victory completed a successful week for Valencia, who beat Salzburg 3-0 on Tuesday to secure a 3-1 aggregate win and a place in the Champions League group stage.
The first half at the Mestalla was a tight affair.
Valencia, however, were comfortably the more dangerous of the two teams, with Spain international David Villa always a threat playing just behind Morientes in attack.
Betis' only real chance of the first 45 minutes fell to Dani, who was played clean through in the first minute.
He was denied by sprawling Valencia goalkeeper Santiago Canizares, who shot out from his line and smothered the ball just as the striker was about to shoot.
Congested midfields led to few clear-cut chances, although Villa was twice fed balls into the inside-left channel only for last-ditch challenges to come in, preventing the forward from shooting on both occasions.
Morientes was the only player to have a clear sight of goal in the first half - and he snapped up the opportunity by putting his team ahead.
A surging forward run by former Arsenal midfielder Edu ended when he slid a short ball to Morientes on the edge of the area.
The striker, who moved to the Mestalla in the summer in a #3.1million move from Liverpool, showed instincts of old by slamming a fierce strike past Antonio Doblas into the right corner.
Doblas needed to be at his best in the 52nd minute to keep out a shot from Miguel Angulo, playing in an unfamiliar right-back role, following a short corner.
But just a minute later and against the run of play, Betis were on level terms, former Valencia striker Xisco making the most of some poor marking to head home a textbook delivery by left-back Enrique Romero into the top left-hand corner.
It was not long before Los Che were back in front, Albiol scuffing a left-foot effort into the bottom corner in the 61st minute after a bout of pinball in the Betis area following a Vicente corner.
By that time, Valencia had regained their composure, and the front two of Villa and Morientes continued to pose problems.
Indeed, in the 63rd minute, Morientes had a close-range, left-foot shot saved acrobatically by Doblas, with Villa slamming the rebound wide.
Valencia continued to probe but they could not find a killer third. They had done enough, however, to secure maximum points.