Sevilla keep themselves within touching distance of European qualification next season [EPA]

Sevilla rose to fifth place in Spain's Primera Division on Sunday with a 3-1 home win over Real Zaragoza, moving them closer to European qualification.

A Diego Perotti strike and penalties from Frederic Kanoute and Alvaro Negredo secured the sought after points, and victory at their Sanchez Pizjuan stadium lifted the Andalusian club to fifth on 45 points, two ahead of Espanyol who were beaten 2-1 at home by Racing Santander earlier.

In Valencia, Christian Stuani scored a double as Levante continued their excellent second half of the season with a 3-1 win over Malaga.

Manuel Pellegrini's Malaga remain mired in the relegation places in 19th, three ahead of bottom side Almeria, who host Athletic Bilbao on Monday.

European dreams

Argentine winger Diego Perotti had put Sevilla ahead on 43 minutes only for giant Czech Jiri Jarosik to equalise two minutes after the break.

Hosts Sevilla were then awarded a fortunate penalty with Uruguayan defender Martin Caceres adjudged to have been fouled and Kanoute converted the 56th minute spot-kick for his ninth league goal of the season.

Negredo won another penalty, which he converted himself, in the dying seconds of the match and the defeat leaves Zaragoza languishing one point ahead of the relegation zone with eight games to save themselves.

Sevilla go two points above Espanyol into fifth after the Barcelona-based side saw their European hopes dented by a 2-1 home loss to Racing Santander at the Cornella-El Prat stadium.

Argentine Pablo Osvaldo converted a 37th minute penalty to put Espanyol ahead, but second half goals from Gonzalo Colsa and Mexican Giovanni dos Santos turned the game in Racing's favour.

Earlier new Hercules coach Miroslav Djukic enjoyed a winning start in his first match in charge as Hercules won 3-1 at Real Sociedad to move off the foot of the table.

Herculean effort

Promoted Hercules had lost nine out of their last 11 league matches, but former Serbia and Montenegro national coach Djukic inspired their first league win since mid-February as they climbed to 18th in the standings.

"The hard work and talking about things don't mean anything if they are not reflected in the scoreline," said Djukic.

Results

Saturday April 2

 Real 0-1 Sporting Gijon
 Getafe 2-4 Valencia
 Villarreal 0-1 Barcelona

Sunday April 3

 Deportivo 2-1 Mallorca
 Espanyol 1-2 Santander
 Levante 3-1 Malaga
 Sociedad 1-3 Hercules
 Sevilla 3-1 Real Zaragoza
 Osasuna v Atletico Madrid

"This is just the beginning of the road and there are eight stops left so there is no time to relax."

Dutchman Royston Drenthe, on loan from Real Madrid, scored twice in the final ten minutes to ensure a comfortable victory for Hercules after a 69th minute header from Javier Portillo had put them ahead.

Hercules move off the bottom, with Almeria replacing them, and the club are now just one point from safety.

Deportivo La Coruna moved five points clear of the drop zone with a 2-1 comeback home win over Real Mallorca.

Cameroon striker Pierre Webo headed Mallorca ahead on 26 minutes, but midfielder Xisco equalised and Frenchman Lassad Nouioui struck a 66th minute winner at the Riazor stadium.

In Saturday's games, Real Madrid's chances of ending Barcelona's two-year reign as champions suffered a huge setback when they slumped to a shock 1-0 defeat at home to Sporting Gijon and Barca won 1-0 at Villarreal.

Real's failure spoiled their perfect home record which had read 14 wins in 14 this season and ended coach Jose Mourinho's nine-year unbeaten run in home league games with Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real.

Barca have 81 points from 30 games, eight ahead of Real on 73 with eight matches left.

Source: Agencies