Valencia maintain hold on third

David Silva sets up first and scores second to go four clear of Real Mallorca in La Liga.

    Silva shoots the second goal on the slide as Valencia consolidate third place [AFP]

    David Silva set up the first and scored the second as Valencia overcame a stubborn Almeria 2-0 to strengthen their hold on third place in the Spanish Primera Division.

    They went four points clear of Real Mallorca, who earlier moved into the fourth European Champions League qualification spot by crushing 10-man Atletico Madrid 4-1.

    Atletico, without suspended striker Sergio Aguero, were reduced to 10 men in the 56th minute when Raul Garcia picked up a second yellow card.

    "We fell apart in all aspects – in the fundamentals, the play, the dead ball situations, in all facets of the game," coach Quique Sanchez said.

    "We didn't have an answer from the first minute – so it's normal to lose."

    Defence-splitting

    Almeria were unbeaten in seven when they arrived at the Mestalla, and it took a clever turn and defence-splitting pass from Silva to set up Juan Mata for Valencia's opener in the 63rd minute.

    La Liga results

    Saturday March 20

     Athletic Bilbao 2-2 Getafe
     Deportivo 0-2 Valladolid
     Xerez 2-1 Tenerife
     Real Madrid 3-1 Sp Gijon
     Espanyol 2-0 Sevilla

    Sunday March 21

     Malaga 2-0 Villarreal
     Osasuna 1-3 Santander
     Real Mallorca 4-1 Atl Madrid
     Valencia 2-0 Almeria
     Real Zaragoza v Barcelona

    The Spain midfielder then grabbed the second soon after, scoring despite lying on the ground in the area after being tackled.

    Valencia have 50 points from 27 games, and are 15 short of second-placed Barcelona who were playing at Real Zaragoza in Sunday's late game.

    Lionel Messi was included in Barcelona's starting lineup despite suffering from a swollen gum.

    Leaders Real Madrid are top with 68 points after coming back to beat Sporting Gijon 3-1 on Saturday.

    Cash-strapped Mallorca, who have won all but one of their home games this season, took the lead through Victor after only 10 minutes against Atletico but Diego Forlan levelled for the Copa del Rey finalists in the 25th.

    Aritz Aduriz restored Mallorca's advantage almost immediately and Atletico faded after midfielder Raul Garcia was sent off early in the second half.

    Sliced

    Luis Perea sliced the ball into his own net at a corner and then Felipe Mattioni volleyed a spectacular fourth for the islanders in the last minute.

    "This win makes a point to all those rivals who thought off-field problems would take their toll on us," Mallorca coach Gregorio Manzano said.

    "Today we have proved we are a strong, ambitious team and worthy candidates for the European places."

    Mallorca moved on to 46 points, two above Sevilla after the Andalucians lost 2-0 at Espanyol on Saturday.

    In other games, a Nabil Baha double earned Malaga a surprise 2-0 victory over Villarreal and Racing Santander beat Osasuna 3-1 away.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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