Juanfran earns Levante win
Last Updated: 20/09/12 10:59pm
Pedro Rios holds off Jere Uronen
Juanfran scored the only goal of the game as Primera Liga Levante held firm against Swedish side Helsingborg to claim an opening win in Europa League Group L.
The hosts came up against confident visitors, for whom last Saturday's emphatic Allsvenskan win over GIF Sundsvall had snapped a run of five straight defeats for Age Hareide's side.
Levante's start to their new Primera Liga campaign had been patchy, with just one win in four, but they started with plenty of confidence in their Estadio Ciudad de Valencia.
Angel Rodriguez should have done better with a fourth minute shot that flashed wide of goal and the same player was caught offside two minutes later as the home side pressed.
The visitors fashioned their first real chance in the 19th minute when David Accam's shot from the edge of the six-yard box was blocked by Levante keeper Keilor Navas.
But Levante responded by almost going ahead on the half-hour after a foul by Jere Uronen gave the hosts a free-kick in a dangerous position on the right wing.
Michel's set-piece found Papakouli Diop in the box and the Senegal midfielder met the ball with a volley which flashed just over Par Hansson's bar.
Hansson earned a let-off after fumbling a Michel corner in the 33rd minute, and again in the 34th minute when a drilled shot by Juanlu was blocked in the box by Uronen.
Levante finally broke the deadlock five minutes before the break after a foul by Ardian Gashi on Juanlu. Michel's free-kick found Juanfran in the box to fire home from 12 yards.
In a low-key second period, Juanfran came close to adding a second when he shot wide on 52 minutes, then Michel had to boot away a Christoffer Andersson cross as the visitors pressed at the other end.
Nikola Djurdjic almost summoned an acrobatic equaliser with an overhead kick that went just over the bar in the 67th minute, but the visitors struggled to maintain their momentum.
Levante came close through Diop and Ruben while Gashi spurned Helsingborg's last chance two minutes from time when he fired wide of the target from 18 yards.