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March 01, 2015

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Pablo Piatti scored twice shortly after halftime to help Valencia beat Real Sociedad 2-0 at home on Sunday, strengthening its hold on fourth place in the Spanish league.

Valencia pulled level on points with third-place Atletico Madrid, which faces a tough trip to fifth-place Sevilla later.

Piatti converted Valencia's dominance into a goal eight minutes after the interval when his deflected shot beat goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli.

The forward then met Sofiane Feghouli's cross and slotted it beyond Rulli to seal the outcome three minutes later.

Valencia, however, lost first-choice defender Nicolas Otamendi to a leg injury right before halftime.

Athletic Bilbao also earned a 1-0 victory at Eibar in a Basque Country derby as it moved into 10th place before its Copa del Rey second-leg semifinal at Espanyol on Wednesday with the tie poised at 1-1.

Defender Carlos Gurpegui was left unmarked to head in Oscar de Marcos' pass for what proved to be the winner in the 36th. Goalkeeper Jaime Jimenez saved the hosts from greater defeat with at least five impressive stops, but he couldn't prevent Eibar from slipping into 13th after a sixth consecutive defeat.

Real Madrid hosts Villarreal later, aiming to restore its lead over Barcelona to four points at the top of the table.

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