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Villarreal Back In Champions League Hunt

Villarreal got their quest to finish in the Champions League qualification spots back on track with a hard-fought 2-1 win over struggling Numancia. Coach Manuel Pellegrini this week called on the club’s supporters to rally behind his under-performing team and they responded by cheering on their heroes to just a third win in 15 competitive games.

Giuseppe Rossi was the star for the Yellow Submarine with both goals either side of a Carlos Aranda strike five minutes before the break. 

Diego Forlan scored a quickfire double as Atletico Madrid trounced Recreativo Huelva 3-0 to hand Abel Resino a dream debut as coach. Sergio Aguero put the visitors ahead after three minutes before Uruguay ace Forlan netted two goals in seven first-half minutes. The striker scored after 28 minutes and 35 minutes as Resino’s reign began in style and Atletico ended a run of seven games without a win in all competitions since the start of the year.

Real Valladolid survived a nervy final 10 minutes at home to Athletic Bilbao to hold on for their second win in a row and leapfrog the Basque side in the table. Victor Fernandez gave Valladolid the lead from the penalty spot seven minutes before half-time and added a second goal just before the hour as Jose Luis Mendilibar’s side looked set to cruise comfortably to a second successive win.

But Pablo Orbaiz pulled a goal back for the visitors five minutes later after Fernando Llorente’s penalty had hit the post and the home side were forced to endure a nervy end to the game as Athletic pressed for a late equaliser.

Getafe were forced to settle for a point from a 1-1 draw with Espanyol despite dominating for most of the encounter and playing against 10 men for the final 25 minutes. Getafe trailed early to Ivan Alonso’s debut strike for Espanyol but hit back through Roberto Soldado’s fourth goal in three games and only a combination of poor finishing and superb goalkeeping from Cristian Alvarez denied Victor Munoz’s side. Even the 65th-minute dismissal of Espanyol defender Marc Torrejon, shown a straight red card for a heavy challenge on Soldado, failed to aid Getafe.

A great second-half performance saw Malaga fight back from two goals down to snatch a 3-2 win against Almeria, who ended the match with 10 men. Almeria looked to be in complete control at the break thanks to goals from Kalu Uche and Alvaro Negredo. However, Albert Luque grabbed one back two minutes into the second half before half-time substitute Salva Ballesta bagged a brace to give Malaga a 75th-minute lead. And any hope Almeria had of getting something from the game evaporated five minutes from time when Mane was shown a straight red card.

Deportivo La Coruna midfielder Joan Verdu scored an equaliser from the penalty spot 14 minutes from time to deny 10-man Real Mallorca the chance to move off the foot of the Primera Liga table. The hosts looked set to grab three vital points in their fight for survival when Aritz Aduriz headed them into a 56th-minute lead.

Mallorca could have even extended that advantage when Jose Luis Marti hit the crossbar with a long-range drive, but Depor earned a share of the spoils when Verdu smashed home his penalty after Jose Nunes fouled Riki in the area. Mallorca were dealt a further blow eight minutes from the end when defender Enrique Corrales was given his marching orders for a second caution.

Real Madrid continued their impressive winning streak under new coach Juande Ramos on Saturday, producing another workmanlike performance to see off Racing Santander 1-0 at the Bernabeu. Gonzalo Higuain netted the only goal of the game just after the break as Madrid made it eight competitive wins out of nine – and seven in succession – since Ramos replaced Bernd Schuster in the hotseat.

In Saturday’s other game, late goals from Sergio Garcia and Ricardo Oliveira saw Real Betis win 2-1 in a passionate Andalusian derby clash at Sevilla to beat their fierce city rivals away from home for the first time in 13 years.

Garcia struck with 20 minutes left just after Sevilla had been reduced to 10 men following the sending-off of midfielder Aldo Duscher. And January signing Oliveira secured a deserved win for Betis on his second debut for the club with seven minutes left on the clock. Frederic Kanoute headed a consolation for the home side in added time, but the visitors held on for a precious derby triumph.

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