Valencia keeps hold on 4th in Spain, Granada grabs lifeline
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Valencia eased to a 3-1 win at home over Eibar on Sunday to strengthen its hold on Spain’s last Champions League berth.
Granada striker Youssef El Arabi also scored twice to secure a 2-1 win at Getafe, as the struggling club tried to mount a late-season surge to avoid relegation from the Spanish league.
Ten-man Elche sealed its spot in the top flight for next season with an impressive 2-1 win over Malaga, while Espanyol salvaged a point in an ill-tempered 1-1 draw against Rayo Vallecano to keep both sides in the middle of the standings.
Valencia’s 10th win in its last 11 matches at Mestalla Stadium kept it in fourth place, three points above Sevilla as the two vie for a top-four finish.
Center back Nicolas Otamendi was left unmarked to thump in Jose Gaya’s cross to put Valencia on its way in the 25th minute.
Seconds after teammate Rodrigo de Paul hit the crossbar, Dani Parejo’s deflected strike found the net to make it 2-0 in the 56th. Parejo was next to be hit the woodwork with a free kick in the 71st, but the rebound fell for Paco Alcacer to tap in and secure the three points.
Mikel Arruabarrena scored Eibar’s goal six minutes from time. Eibar’s ninth away game without a win left it one point above the drop zone.
“This will be decided at the very end,” Valencia coach Nuno Espirito Santo said. “Nothing is guaranteed, but you can’t deny that we have the possibility to go even higher.”
Granada’s much-needed win came in the debut of coach Jose Sandoval, Granada’s third manager of the season, who was hired on Friday for the last month of the season to replace the fired Abel Resino.
El Arabi converted a penalty in the 14th after Naldo used his arm to block Francisco “Piti” Medina’s cross.
Pedro Leon leveled for the hosts just before halftime, but El Arabi headed home Piti’s precise pass for the 59th-minute winner.
Granada’s first win in nine rounds left it three points from safety with another three rounds to play.
“At halftime I let them think for five minutes and then told that we had to win this one way or another. They knew that if we did things like we had in the first half we would win,” Sandoval said. “If we win the last three games the team will be saved.”
Elche striker Jonathas netted his 12th goal of the campaign by sprinting to score Victor Rodriguez’s cross in the 29th, capping a counterattack started by Faycal Fajr.
Malaga’s Sergio “Duda” Barbosa missed a penalty in the 75th after Elche goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton was sent off with a direct red card for fouling Javi Guerra.
Jonathas set up Mario Pasalic for Elche’s second goal in 89th. But Guerra halved the difference in injury time, and substitute goalie Manu Herrera had to make three late saves to protect Elche’s important win.
Espanyol almost scored in the 15th when Anaitz Arbilla’s free kick struck the bar but went behind when Rayo left back Emiliano Insua netted for the visitors in the 29th after a one-two exchange with Alberto Bueno.
The second half started with Espanyol striker Felipe Caicedo needing to be carried off after receiving a knock on the head.
More scuffles and fouls followed until Espanyol defender Hector Moreno equalized in the 80th when his cross landed in the net.
Espanyol lost midfielder Jose Canas to back-to-back yellow cards for continued protests in stoppage time.
Barcelona leads Real Madrid by two points at the top of table after both won on Saturday.