By Andy Hall
Juan Román Riquelme scored a hat-trick as Villarreal CF’s impressive start to 2005 continued with a thrilling 3-1 victory against regional rivals Valencia CF on Sunday.
Villarreal came in to the game on the back of a run of five wins from their last six matches, and never looked like ceding that form in a frenetic derby. Riquleme gave Manuel Luis Pellegrini’s side the lead from the penalty spot on 17 minutes after Marco Caneiro had pushed Diego Forlán.
Santiago Cañizares had little chance with the spot-kick but the goalkeeper was caught out by a long-range effort from Riquelme on the cusp of half-time, giving the home side a two-goal cushion at the interval. Marco Di Vaio had the opportunity to reduce the arrears midway through the second half after Valencia were awarded a penalty but he was denied by an excellent save from Pepe Reina.
Pablo Aimar did score from the spot after Gonzalo Rodríguez, who was sent off, had handled in the area late on, but within two minutes, Riquelme restored the two-goal lead and sealed the win with the fourth penalty of the match.
Madrid late show
Real Madrid CF kept up the pressure on leaders FC Barcelona, but they took their time as two late goals gave them a 3-1 victory at home against ten-man RCD Mallorca. Despite Madrid’s dominance of possession, and following Mark Iuliano’s second-half dismissal, the match looked to be heading for a 1-1 draw before Walter Samuel edged the home side ahead with less than ten minutes remaining.
Until then Alejandro Campano's free-kick looked to have earned the islanders a share of the spoils after cancelling out Luís Figo’s well-taken penalty. Santiago Solari then found the net again with a blistering drive in to the top corner to give the scoreline a more one-sided look. Vanderlei Luxemburgo’s men remain second on 41 points, seven behind Barça.
Goals from Renato and Antoñito Ramiro gave Sevilla FC a 2-0 win against Albacete Balompié to move into fourth, while Real Betis Balompié go sixth after cruising to a 4-0 win at home to a CD Numancia side reduced to nine men for much of the game. Ricardo Oliveira scored twice while other goals came from Juantio Gutiérrez and an exquisite free-kick from Marco Assunçao.
Two for Tristán
RCD Espanyol were also reduced to nine as Diego Tristán scored twice en route to a 4-1 win for RC Deportivo La Coruña, who gained their first win in eight matches. Elsewhere, Real Sociedad de Fútbol who lost 2-1 at Levante UD and Getafe CF recorded a 3-0 victory against Real Zaragzoa, while Málaga CF defeated Club Atlético de Madrid 1-0.
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