Football: Valencia ease drop fears with victory over Villarreal

Valencia forward Santi Mina celebrates after scoring in the 42nd minute against Villarreal. The win was also Valencia's first clean sheet of the season.
Valencia forward Santi Mina celebrates after scoring in the 42nd minute against Villarreal. The win was also Valencia's first clean sheet of the season.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Embattled side shock high-flying Villarreal away, making it two wins on the bounce

MADRID • Valencia's revival in the Spanish Primera Liga continued on Saturday as they registered a second successive league win for the first time this season, upsetting sixth-placed Villarreal 2-0.

The victory at the Ceramic Stadium also saw caretaker coach Salvador "Voro" Gonzalez lead his side to a first clean sheet of the campaign.

Carlos Soler and Santi Mina got the goals before half-time as Valencia jumped up to 15th on 19 points, seven points clear of the relegation zone.

Voro hailed his team's performance after the win, telling the club's website: "We went for the game from the opening minute. We wanted to neutralise everything that Villarreal do well, and we managed to do that.

"It was important to score when we had chances, and these three points from a big game are hugely important too.

" It was vital for us to keep a clean sheet today; the win was the important thing and all the better if it came with a clean sheet."

While former coach Cesare Prandelli complained about a lack of fighting spirit during his brief tenure from September to December, Voro noted an improvement in the squad with him at the reins.

He said: "When we saw the relegation zone closing in, the team have been able to fight and get out of the situation. We have to keep going forward, and I can see how the players push in training."

Real Madrid also returned to winning ways with a 2-1 victory over Malaga at the Bernabeu but it was a bittersweet outing for their star, Cristiano Ronaldo.

Sergio Ramos struck twice to sink the visitors but the home fans targeted Ronaldo on Saturday.

The European champions' 40-game unbeaten run had come to a crashing halt with back-to-back defeats by Sevilla and Celta Vigo in the past week, but the win ensured they opened up a four-point gap over Sevilla at the top of the table with 43 points.

Ramos opened the scoring with a towering header from a Toni Kroos corner on 35 minutes.

And the Spanish international defender soon took his career tally to 50 La Liga goals by bundling home another Kroos delivery despite standing in an offside position.

Juanpi got Malaga back into the game just after the hour and they could have snatched a point but for a fine save from Keylor Navas to deny Chory Castro.

While Ramos was riding to Real's rescue, off-colour Ronaldo endured another afternoon to forget in front of goal and was even whistled by the Madridistas early on after a sluggish start to 2017.

"Sometimes when you have difficulties, you need the fans' help and to be behind you," said Zidane.

"I am not going to criticise the fans because they pay their money. But with so many games and a lot of injuries, the players need to feel that love sometimes. The coach does too."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 23, 2017, with the headline 'Valencia ease drop fears with victory'. Print Edition | Subscribe