Valencia beats Villarreal 3-1 to move 2nd in Spain
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Valencia defender Shkodran Mustafi scored twice in a 3-1 win at Villarreal to help his team climb into second place on Sunday as the logjam continued at the top of the Spanish league.
Valencia’s win — and Sevilla’s 1-0 loss at Athletic Bilbao — kept the top five teams all within two points through 10 rounds. Real Madrid leads with 24 points.
Mustafi struck in the 64th and 73rd minutes after Villarreal midfielder Manuel Trigueros scored an own goal in the sixth to spoil his team’s strong first-half push. Trigueros got a consolation goal in the 88th.
“It was a tough game against a team that reaches your area very easily,” said Valencia coach Nuno Espirito Santo. “We knew how to dig down, control the match and make the most of our chances.”
Earlier, Bilbao’s Aritz Aduriz netted the 13th-minute winner to ruin Sevilla’s hopes of overtaking Madrid, before the striker left injured in the 28th.
Madrid went top on Saturday after winning 4-0 at Granada and then seeing Barcelona lose 1-0 at home to Celta Vigo.
Sunday’s results put Valencia ahead of defending champion Atletico Madrid in third on goal difference, with both teams one point behind Madrid. Barcelona is in fourth place, ahead of Sevilla on goal difference, and two points off Madrid’s pace.
Also, Levante beat Almeria 2-1 to escape last place after having lost its first four games at home this season, while Jonathas’s brace led nine-man Elche to a 2-1 win at home over Espanyol that pulled it out of the relegation zone.
Real Sociedad fired coach Jagoba Arrasate a day after its 1-0 loss to Malaga left it in the drop zone.
Villarreal was left to rue missed chances in a first half it dominated at El Madrigal Stadium but finished trailing 1-0.
Trigueros blasted Denis Cheryshev’s pass over the crossbar moments before he rushed back to defend, only to tap Sofiane Feghouli’s cross into his own net.
Cheryshev continued to trouble Valencia with his incursions down the left, but goalkeeper Diego Alves saved his dipping strike in the 37th, seconds before his header hit a defender.
Having weathered the hosts’ pace for an hour, Mustafi gave Valencia the cushion it needed when the German fended off his marker to head in Pablo Piatti’s cross at the far post. Mustafi scored again by drilling in a corner kick, with fellow center back Nicolas Otamendi letting the ball go through.
“They reached our area twice and scored three goals,” said Villarreal manager Marcelino Garcia. “The second goal killed us. We weren’t able to finish our chances. I am sick and tired of playing well and losing.”
Villarreal, which conceded two goals late to lose at Sevilla last round, was left in eighth place.
Bilbao played its most complete match since eliminating Napoli in August to qualify for the Champions League group phase in what otherwise has been a poor start to the season for the Basque club.
Ernesto Valverde’s team bettered Sevilla in a physical match that saw five yellow cards in the first half and two more in the second.
“We knew that they were dangerous up front and that we had to defend well,” said Bilbao defender Andoni Iraola. “We didn’t take any chances, but it wasn’t necessary, leading most of the way.
“They are a very physical team, above all in the midfield, and you have to match them there. It was a very hard-fought game.”
Sevilla entered the match on its best league start in club history, but Bilbao had its most disciplined defensive showing of the season to win for just a second time in this league at its new San Mames Stadium.
Markel Susaeta crossed for Aduriz to rifle the ball beyond goalkeeper Antonio “Beto” Bastos with a stinging volley to claim the game’s only goal.
In Valencia, Levante took the lead through striker David Barral’s solo effort in the 26th. Jonathan Zongo leveled for Almeria in the 70th, but Victor Casadesus scored from the rebound after Jaime Gavilan’s free kick curled off the post in the 75th.
It was coach Lucas Alcaraz’s first win since taking over.
Elche’s Jonathas netted in the 19th and 52nd before teammates Garry Rodrigues and Domingo Cisma were sent off with two bookings. Christian Stuani pulled one back for Espanyol from the penalty spot in the 86th.