Ernesto Valverde orchestrated another win for Los Che, while there were also vital victories for Betis and Espanyol
Rayo Vallecano continued their excellent recent form with a narrow 2-1 victory over Athletic Bilbao at San Mames on Friday evening.
The Basque side arguably had the better of the first half, with Markel Susaeta hitting the post with a bullet header and Aritz Aduriz seeing a lob expertly saved by Rayo goalkeeper Ruben Martinez. However, the visitors took the lead three minutes after the break when Lass latched on to a floated pass from Roberto Trashorras to take the ball down and smash home.
Substitute Fernando Llorente struck the bar for the hosts shortly after coming on in the second period, a moment that proved to be vital as Rayo doubled their lead five minutes later. Carlos Gurpegi brought down Alejandro Dominguez on the edge of the box, and Piti stepped up to convert the penalty.
Mikel San Jose headed home from a Susaeta cross to make it 2-1 and Alejandro Galvez was given a second yellow card for Rayo, but Marcelo Bielsa’s men failed to find the vital equaliser and now find themselves just six points above the drop zone.VALLADOLID 3-1 MALLORCA
A double from Patrick Ebert helped Real Valladolid claim their first win in five games as the Pucela came out 3-1 winners over Mallorca.
The German opened the scoring 21 minutes in when he picked up the ball on the edge of the area and slammed a shot into the top right corner, but Mallorca were on level terms seven minutes before half time when Victor Casadesus headed in from Javier Arizmendi’s cross.
The Islanders came flying out of the blocks in the second half, and came within inches of taking the lead when Giovani Dos Santos’ dipping effort crashed off the woodwork. However, the hosts eventually stole the points with two minutes remaining when Oscar Gonzalez cushioned Ebert’s high ball past Dudu Aouate in the Mallorca goal.
Ebert then claimed his second in the last minute when twisted and turned past Aouate before stroking into the net.ESPANYOL 1-0 CELTA
Espanyol lifted themselves out of the relegation zone with a vital 1-0 victory over Celta Vigo at the Cornella El-Prat on Saturday afternoon.
The opening 20 minutes saw both sides exchange decent opportunities, with Iago Aspas and Joan Verdu both passing up decent chances for their respective teams. The breakthrough eventually came 23 minutes in when Christian Stuani sent a perfect cross to the back post for Sergio Garcia, who had the simplest of tasks to pass over the line.
The home side sat back and allowed Celta more possession in the second half, but the chances dried up as the game progressed and Javier Aguirre’s men held on for an important three points.VALENCIA 2-0 SEVILLA
Two goals from Roberto Soldado gave Valencia their seventh win from eight games under new boss Ernesto Valverde, as Los Che defeated Sevilla 2-0 at the Mestalla.
Both sides jostled for supremacy in the opening period, but neither side was able to muster up any golden goalscoring chances.
The opening goal eventually came five minutes after the restart, when Soldado showed his predatory instincts inside the area to finish from close range from Adil Rami’s goalbound header.
Diego Alves and Diego Lopez were kept fairly busy in the second half with a string of comfortable saves, but the match was put beyond Sevilla two minutes from time when Soldado popped up again to head home from Ever Banega’s corner.
BETIS 2-0 LEVANTE
Goals from Joel Campbell and Ruben Castro saw Real Betis move within three points of third-placed Real Madrid with a 2-0 win over Levante in La Liga on Sunday morning.
Pepe Mel’s men looked sharp in the opening minutes of the match and took the lead after just seven minutes when Castro counterattacked at pace through the middle and slid a pass to Campbell, who coolly finished past Gustavo Munua in the Levante goal.
Roger passed up two great chances either side of the break to equal the score, and Betis took advantage of Levante’s wasteful finishing to double their lead just after the hour mark.
Castro showed agility to quickly turn Sergio Ballesteros inside the area before rifling a shot into the bottom corner, ensuring a vital victory for the Andalusians.
REAL SOCIEDAD 1-1 DEPORTIVO
10-man Deportivo held on for a crucial point as they held firm to earn a 1-1 draw at Real Sociedad.
Pizzi gave the visitors the lead three minutes before the half-hour mark, when he received a pass from Alex Bergantinos inside the box and sent the ball high into the roof of the net past goalkeeper Claudio Bravo.
Imanol Agirretxe struck the post 10 minutes later with a header, but Sociedad did make the breakthrough they needed in the 45th minute when Carlos Vela netted from close range.
A nervous finish was ensured for Depor when defender Evaldo was shown his second yellow card with 26 minutes remaining, but Domingos Paciencia’s men held on for the draw.
ATLETICO MADRID 2-0 ZARAGOZA
Atletico Madrid extended the gap between themselves and third-placed Real Madrid to seven points with a comfortable 2-0 win over Zaragoza on Sunday evening.
Los Rojiblancos dominated the majority of the match, and should have scored in the opening half-hour, but Radamel Falcao and Diego Godin both passed up excellent opportunities. However, their dominance eventually paid off 30 minutes in when Tiago headed in Gabi’s corner kick at the near post.
Things got from bad to worse for Zaragoza seven minutes later, when Cristian Sapunaru brought down Arda Turan inside the area. Falcao stepped up to smash his penalty right down the middle and make it 2-0.
Barring a save by Thibaut Courtois to deny Apono, the visitors failed to give Atletico many scares at the back, and Diego Simeone’s men held on to further the gap between themselves and their city rivals.