Valencia marked their return to the Champions League group stage with a pulsating, yet disappointing, 3-2 defeat to Zenit St Petersburg on Wednesday.
The Russian champions took the lead after just nine minutes through Hulk, who led a three-on-three and sent an angled drive into the bottom-left corner of Jaume Domenech’s net.
The Brazilian then grabbed his second of the evening shortly before half-time as he rifled home an unstoppable effort from around 30 yards out.
Valencia looked devoid of creativity in the final third in the first half, but substitute Paco Alcacer’s offside finish provided the cue for Joao Cancelo to pull one back.
The right-back looked to have fired a low shot past Yuri Lodygin from the edge of the box, but Axel Witsel’s deflection caught the goalkeeper flatfooted.
Redemption seemed to be complete with little under 20 minutes to go as Andre Gomes cut into the box and bent his strike low and hard beyond Lodygin, yet Witsel enjoyed his own with a piledriver from distance three minutes later.
Valencia 2-3 Zenit St Petersburg
Witsel og 54, Gomes 73 (V) Hulk 9, 44, Witsel 76 (Z)
Valencia: Domenech; Cancelo, Mustafi, Abdennour, Gaya; Parejo, Fuego (Gomes 46) Perez; Feghouli (Rodrigo 71), Negredo, Piatti (Alcacer 46)
Zenit: Lodygin; Anyukov (Neto 77), Garay, Lombaerts; Smolnikov (Shatov 69), Garcia, Danny, Witsel; Dzyuba (Faizulin 59), Hulk
Referee: Thomson [SCO]