Impressive Valencia stay third, solid Mallorca retake fourth


Madrid: Valencia consolidated themselves in third place in the Spanish Liga, with an impressive 4-1 thrashing of local rivals Villarreal, with Spain striker David Villa scoring twice.

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“Los Ches” now have 38 points from 18 games, three points less than second-placed Real Madrid, who surprisingly crashed 1-0 away to Athletic Bilbao Sunday.

Real, in their turn, are a worrying five points behind leaders Barcelona, who caned sixth-placed Sevilla 4-0 Saturday.

Valencia were keen to please their fans in Mestalla after being edged out of the King’s Cup Wednesday by Deportivo Coruna.

“It was an important game for us,” said veteran anchorman David Albelda, “and it was good to have the fans behind us.”

It was Ever Banega, Albelda’s midfield partner, who gave Valencia the lead after just seven minutes, with a fierce long-range drive. Banega, 21, is in the best form of his career and might win a place in Diego Maradona’s Argentine World Cup squad.

In the 29th minute young Villarreal defender Kiko was sent off for pulling down Villa, who calmly converted the resulting penalty.

The one-way traffic continued and David Silva made it 3-0 in the 58th minute, taking advantage of a mistake by Spain team-mate Joan Capdevila.

Brazilian striker Nilmar pulled a goal back for Villarreal, but Villa then sent the crowd home happy by making it 4-1 in stoppage time.

Villa is joint top of the scorers’ chart with Barca’s Lionel Messi, both on 14 goals.

Valencia are still five points ahead of Mallorca, who regained fourth place earlier on Sunday with a 2-0 home win over Deportivo Coruna, thus maintaining their perfect home record.

“We are winning all our home matches,” said Mallorca defender Ivan Ramis, “and that is why we are so high in the league table.”

Ramis added that “now what we have to do is improve our away form.”

Midfielder Mario Suarez opened the scoring two minutes into the second half, after a shot from veteran Jose Luis Marti had been blocked.

Suarez, 22, scored the winning goal for Mallorca Thursday in the King’s Cup against Rayo Vallecano. He is doing so well in Palma that Atletico Madrid, his first club, are keen to take him back.

In the 53th minute, Uruguayan striker Gonzalo Castro made it 2-0 for Mallorca by taking advantage of a mistake from veteran Deportivo right-back Manuel Pablo.

Mallorca are now two points ahead of Deportivo, who fall down to fifth, one point above Sevilla.

Later on Sunday Atletico Madrid continued their revival with a 3-2 home win over Sporting Gijon, a result which takes them up to 11th.

Atletico have not lost for four games now, their best run of a disappointing season. Diego Forlan gave themn an early lead, only for Diego castro to level for Gijon from the penalty spot.

Paulo Assuncao restored Atletico’s lead, youngster Ibrahima Balde made it 3-1, Luis Moran pulled another goal back for defiant Gijon at the end.

Curiously, there were no away wins at all this weekend, for the first time this season.

Sunday’s other games all had relegation significance.

Almeria came from behind to draw 1-1 at home to Tenerife, Malaga beat Getafe 1-0, Racing Santander battled out a 1-1 draw against Valladolid – with another classy goal from teenage sensation Sergio canales – and Zaragoza were held to a disappointing 0-0 home draw by bottom team Xerez.

These results leave Xerez with just eight measly points. Then come Zaragoza on 14, Tenerife on 16, Valladolid and Malaga on 17, and Almeria on 18.