After 12 matches across eight months Stoke City's European odyssey has come to an end and, while it is no disgrace to be eliminated by Valencia, Tony Pulis and his players could be forgiven for wondering how different things might have been had Kenwyne Jones showed a more ruthless touch. Instead Stoke were left to rue the two wonderful chances Jones squandered in the opening 20 minutes and the goal that Jonas scored moments later to put Valencia 2-0 up on aggregate.
It was a killer blow and one which Stoke never recovered from as Valencia grew in confidence. The home side always looked capable of moving through the gears and the substitute Roberto Soldado should have added a second in the 78th minute, when he capitalised on a Jonathan Woodgate mistake only for Thomas Sorensen to make a fine save. By that stage, however, Stoke's early threat had been nullified and Valencia were cruising to a last 16 tie against PSV.
Although Pulis left nine senior players at home, there was still £30m of talent in the starting XI, and the way the 3,500 travelling supporters acknowledged Stoke's efforts at the final whistle suggested they were happy with what they had seen. "Bye, bye, bye Delilah" was reverberating from the vertiginous stands at the Mestalla long after the end of the game, a measure of how much the fans enjoyed an occasion that would have been unimaginable not long ago.
"It's been fantastic, a real experience for the club," said Pulis, reflecting on their European journey. "When you think where the club has come in the last five or six years, to be able to say we have been involved with such a famous club and given them two good games both home and away … a little bit of luck, especially in the first half, we could have scored three goals. But in front of goal they've been a little bit better than us."
Although Valencia came close to scoring inside the second minute, when Daniel Parejo's free-kick struck the crossbar, Stoke looked more dangerous in the opening stages. Jones should have scored in the 15th minute, only to make poor contact with a free header from Rory Delap's centre, and the striker wasted an even better opportunity a few moments later. Wilson Palacios's neat pass invited Jones to run clear but he scuffed his left-foot shot into the ground and Vicente Guaita was able to turn the ball behind.
Jones made a far better connection with a shot from further out, in the 26th minute, that forced a reflex save from Guaita but by then Valencia were ahead. Pulis was entitled to feel aggrieved that Markus Strombergsson, the Swedish referee, failed to award a free-kick when Diego Arismendi was brought down on the edge of the Valencia area, and to compound his frustration the home team went straight up the other end and scored, Jonas tapping home Pablo Hernández's cut-back.