La Liga: Valencia stays in the hunt with late win over Almeria
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Alvaro Negredo headed home Valencia's winning goal seven minutes from time to secure a 3-2 victory over Almeria and keep his team near the top of the Spanish league on Saturday.
Villarreal also stayed in the hunt for a top-four finish and a Champions League berth with a 2-0 win at home over Athletic Bilbao, extending its unbeaten streak in all competitions to 15 games.
Negredo went on with half an hour to play and steered in Jose Gaya's short cross to lift Valencia to a provisional third place, ahead of Atletico Madrid on goal difference before the defending champion hosts Granada on Sunday.
Almeria twice leveled through goals by striker Tomer Hemed.
Dani Parejo opened for Valencia at Mestalla Stadium in the 11th, but Hemed needed only two minutes to equalize when he tapped in a cross by Wellington Silva.
Rodrigo Moreno put Valencia back in front in the 28th, only for Hemed to make it 2-2 quickly, before he hit the crossbar three minutes later.
"Now we need to work on correcting what we did wrong on their goals," Valencia coach Nuno Espirito Santo said.
Almeria was left on the brink of the relegation zone.
Sixth-place Villarreal struck first in an entertaining match at El Madrigal Stadium through Denis Cheryshev three minutes before halftime. The Russian forward scored with a great solo effort as he controlled a long ball, rounded goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz, and fired in from an angle.
Bilbao tried to counter the hosts' up-tempo attack with its passing game, but Bruno Soriano sealed the victory by converting a penalty in the 83rd after Oscar de Marcos handled in the area.
Bilbao, in 13th, has taken just one point of a possible 18.
Manucho also scored a late header to give Rayo Vallecano a 1-0 win at Real Sociedad.
The striker powered in Roberto Trashorras' corner kick to grab the victory with nine minutes to play in an otherwise dull match in San Sebastian.
Rayo rose to ninth place while Sociedad stayed 12th.
It was only Sociedad's second loss in eight league games under coach David Moyes. The Basque club, however, was also knocked out of the Copa del Rey on Wednesday, and some jeers were heard at Anoeta Stadium after Sociedad's second defeat of the week.
Espanyol hosted Celta Vigo late.
Real Madrid visits crosstown rival Getafe on Sunday, looking to bounce back from its elimination from the Copa del Rey by Atletico. Barcelona is at Deportivo La Coruna, Sevilla hosts Malaga, and Elche plays Levante.