Defending champions Valencia CF moved to within a point of Primera División leaders Real Sociedad with a 2-0 away victory against ten-man Villarreal CF at the El Madrigal stadium tonight.
The win, Valencia's eighth in 14 Spanish top-flight games, may have come at a price, though, as David Albelda and Miguel Angulo both limped off within injuries within one first-half minute. The departure of Angulo paved the way for the arrival of John Carew, however, and the Norwegian struck two second-half goals.
Rash of bookings
The game was ill-tempered at times, with six players being booked in the first half. More followed after the break, with Quique Álvarez, the first player to be shown a yellow card in the 26th minute, seeing red in the 54th minute. By that stage, Villarreal were a goal down after the tall Carew controlled the ball in the area and shot between two defenders for a fine opening goal.
Carew was brought on by Valencia coach Rafael Benítez in the 38th minute and could have struck two minutes before half-time but missed when well placed following neat work by the fleet-footed Pablo Aimar. The 23-year-old was far more assured in the second half, adding to his opening goal in the 61st minute.
Villarreal were presented with a chance to haul themselves back into the match two minutes after Carew's second but Andrés Palop, brilliant in the UEFA Champions League against Arsenal FC last week when deputising for the injured Santiago Cañizares, produced a brilliant save to deny Javi Venta, who had only been on the pitch for six minutes.
Aimar could have had the final say but a brilliant save by Villarreal custodian José Manuel Reina denied the enigmatic Argentinian a goal worthy of his countryman Diego Maradona in his pomp. The leaders Real can re-establish their four-point lead with a home win against RCD Mallorca in one of eight games scheduled for Sunday.
Meanwhile, in today's other game, cool finishing from Ruben Navarro and Adrian Ilie earned Deportivo Alavés a 2-0 home victory against Club Atlético de Madrid. Atlético found themselves a goal down after 12 minutes when Navarro took a neat pass from Ilie and swept the ball in from the left of the area. Ilie made it 2-0 on the half-hour with an even better strike, beating two defenders and lifting it over the goalkeeper.
Atlético missed the chance to pull a goal back eleven minutes from time when Richard Dutruel saved a Fernando Torres penalty and Javi Moreno's rebound effort was cleared off the line. The visitors continued to press in the closing minutes but Alavés held out to move up to eleventh place on 16 points. Atletico stay seventh on 21 points.
©Reuters 1998-2010. All rights reserved.