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La Liga Review – Valencia thrash Mestalla

Valencia put their recent troubles aside as they thrashed Getafe 4-1 at the Mestalla to move back into contention for a Champions League place next season.

The club have been stricken with financial problems and poor results in recent times, but this comprehensive victory sees the 2004 champions move up to fifth in the table, where they sit just two points behind fourth-placed Villarreal. They were set on their way by Juan Manuel Mata after 19 minutes of this match and went two up shortly afterwards, when David Villa converted from the penalty spot.

Francisco Javier Casquero pulled one back with a penalty shortly after the interval, but Raul Albiol restored Valencia’s two-goal lead after 56 minutes and Villa rounded off a comprehensive victory with a fourth from the spot on the hour mark. Getafe played the last half an hour with 10 men after goalkeeper Jacobo Sanz was sent off following a second yellow card for bringing down Villa for the penalty which led to the home side’s fourth goal.

Osasuna climbed out of the relegation zone and severely dented Atletico Madrid’s hopes of getting back in the Champions League after claiming a 4-2 win at the Vicente Calderon. Walter Pandiani netted two of his side’s goals but it was the performance of Osasuna playmaker Masoud Shojaei that really caught the eye. The 24-year-old Iranian was on target for the away side with Krisztian Vadocz grabbing their other goal. Diego Forlan and Pablo scored for Atletico.

Espanyol convincingly defeated Deportivo La Coruna 3-1 to boost their slim chances of Primera Liga survival. They got the perfect start when January signing Ivan Alonso fired the opening goal after 12 minutes, following a bad mistake by Deportivo goalkeeper Daniel Aranzubia. Ivan De La Pena fired the home side into a two-goal lead six minutes before the break, and even though Deportivo quickly hit back through Lassad Nouioui, the home side looked comfortable in the second period and sealed a precious win in added time, when Alberto Lopo turned into his own net.

Leaders Barcelona claimed their fourth consecutive Primera Liga win with a hard-fought 1-0 victory at Real Valladolid on Saturday night. Samuel Eto’o scored the game’s only goal, starting and sublimely finishing a Barca move after 40 minutes. Barca had plenty of chances to end the game but lacked precision in the final third, with Xavi and Andres Iniesta both failing to score despite a handful of chances.

Real Madrid also found life tough as they claimed a 1-0 win at Malaga to keep the gap between themselves and Barcelona at the top at six points. Gonzalo Higuain scored the only goal of the game, a fine individual effort after 49 minutes to keep the pressure on Barca. Madrid’s win means they have now taken 40 points from a possible 42 over the last few months under coach Juande Ramos and, with nine games remaining in the season, they look certain to take the title race right to the wire.

Frederic Kanoute’s first-half penalty was enough to give third-placed Sevilla a 1-0 win in a tight Andalusian derby and leave Recreativo Huelva in big trouble with just nine rounds to play. 

Three goals in the first 35 minutes by Almeria saw the struggling side claim a 3-0 victory over Villarreal. Alvaro Negredo tormented the visitors, scoring one and making the other two for Pablo Piatti and Mane. On a miserable night for fourth-placed Villarreal, they saw Robert Pires sent off with more than half an hour to play for two bookable offences and also lost Santi Cazorla to a serious leg injury midway through the second half. He will miss the rest of the season, Villarreal confirmed.

Javi Martinez struck a late winner as Athletic Bilbao gave their survival hopes a huge boost with a much-needed 2-1 victory over fellow relegation battlers Real Mallorca at San Mames. The 20-year-old slotted home six minutes from time to earn Copa del Rey finalists Athletic their first league win since January and end Mallorca’s seven-match unbeaten run. Earlier, Francisco Yeste had given the hosts the lead with a fifth-minute penalty before Jose Manuel Jurado levelled after 72 minutes.

Real Betis remain in trouble at the wrong end of the table after finishing an incredible match with a fifth straight Primera Liga draw – 3-3 at home to Numancia. Sergio Garcia gave Betis an early lead, but Carlos Aranda equalised six minutes before half-time and Jose Javier Barkero fired the visitors in front from the penalty spot with a quarter of an hour left. Nelson was sent off for the foul and Betis were forced to play the last 15 minutes with 10 men but Capi struck six minutes from time and the home side looked set for a win when they were awarded a highly-controversial penalty. Manuel Pavon was adjudged to have brought down Edu and received a second yellow card for the supposed foul. Ricardo Oliveira converted from the spot. That looked to have sealed it for Betis, but there was more drama to come as Numancia won a second penalty of their own in the fifth minute of added time. There was no doubt this time as Ricardo upended Aranda. The Portugal goalkeeper was sent off, leaving his side with nine men, and Aranda beat stand-in keeper Melli to rescue an important point for the visitors, who remained in the bottom three.