Dani Parejo scored twice to lead Valencia to a 3-1 win over Sevilla as the hosts moved past the Andalusian side into fourth place in the Spanish league on Sunday. Sevilla fell two points behind Valencia, but it still has a game in hand at leader Real Madrid on Feb. 4.
Elsewhere, Malaga came from behind for a 1-1 draw at Athletic Bilbao, four days before the two play for a spot in the semifinals of the Copa del Rey.
Christian Stuani scored two goals to help Espanyol beat visitors Almeria 3-0 as the Barcelona-based side won its fourth game in a row before it too turns back to the cup competition.
Abel Resino also debuted as Granada’s new manager in a 2-2 draw at Deportivo La Coruna, as the league’s bottom side recorded a 16th round without a victory.
The physical and up-tempo contest at Mestalla Stadium between the two sides fighting for Spain’s last Champions League spot included three penalty kicks, the last of which Valencia goalkeeper Diego Alves saved to add to his fame as a penalty-stopping specialist.
Parejo put Valencia ahead in the 18th minute when he converted the match’s first penalty after Diogo Figueras kicked Alvaro Negredo inside the box.
The midfielder slotted in a second goal in the 32nd to cap a counterattack started from a poorly taken free kick by Sevilla’s Gerard Deulofeu.
Sevilla, however, pushed forward and Carlos Bacca beat Diego Alves from the spot in the 36th after Parejo brought down Figueras.
Bacca had a chance to level the score five minutes later following Joao Cancelo’s rash tackle of Victor “Vitolo” Machin in the area, but this time Diego Alves smothered his spot kick.
“He fooled me on the first one, but on the second I knew he had the pressure on him and I went to the same side as I had in the first and stopped it,” said Diego Alves. “We pulled a bit ahead (of Sevilla), now let’s see if we can stay there.”
Javi Fuego added Valencia’s third in the 52nd by volleying in Rodrigo Moreno’s pass after Fuego had intercepted goalie Antonio “Beto” Bastos’ errant long ball.
Earlier, Bilbao midfielder Mikel San Jose headed in Markel Susaeta’s corner kick at the near post in the 70th, only for winter reinforcement Javi Guerra to tap home Miguel Torres low cross eight minutes later.
The two teams had already drawn 0-0 in the first leg of their Copa del Rey quarterfinal last Wednesday. Now, they will prepare to return to the same San Mames Stadium for their second-leg decider on Thursday.
In Barcelona, Stuani headed in Sergio Garcia’s short cross in the 37th. He needed three more minutes before rolling in another centered pass from Garcia pushed on by Lucas Vazquez for this team-leading 11th goal of the season in all competitions.
Substitute Felipe Caicedo completed the rout of Almeria by extending his scoring run to five goals in four games with a goal in the 74th. Espanyol will face Sevilla in the Copa del Rey also on Thursday looking to protect a 3-1 lead.
Madrid leads by one point over Barcelona. Atletico Madrid is four points behind Madrid in third.
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