Football: Soldado keeps Valencia in hunt for Champions League return

MADRID (REUTERS) - Roberto Soldado scored twice to keep Valencia in the running for a return to the Champions League next season in a 4-0 Spanish Primera Liga victory at Rayo Vallecano on Sunday.

The Spain striker netted from the penalty spot after 28 minutes and doubled the lead with a simple tap-in from Andres Guardado's pass in the 34th, taking his league tally for the season to 21.

Mexico midfielder Guardado netted at the second attempt midway through the second half, and after Sofiane Feghouli had volleyed against the post, Paraguayan substitute Nelson Haedo Valdez lashed a fourth high into the net on a counter-attack.

Valencia were knocked out of Europe's elite club competition by Paris St Germain at the last-16 stage in March but their hunger for a return far outweighed 10th-placed Rayo's fading hopes of qualifying for the Europa League.

Valencia climbed to fourth on 59 points with three games left to play, and edged ahead in the race for Spain's place in qualifying for next season's Champions League group stage.

Real Sociedad slipped down to fifth with 58 points before playing their game in hand at home to struggling Granada on Monday.

Barcelona, who were confirmed as champions on Saturday when second-placed Real Madrid drew 1-1 at Espanyol, and third-placed Atletico Madrid, have secured the automatic qualification slots.

Barca, with 88 points and four games left to play, visit Atletico at the Calderon later on Sunday with their eye on matching Real's record-breaking points tally of 100 from last season.