Atletico Madrid joint second after Argentine-flavoured win

December 21st, 2008 - 3:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Madrid, Dec 21 (DPA) Atletico Madrid moved up to joint second in the Spanish Liga with an important 3-2 win away to lowly Espanyol.Maxi Rodriguez scored twice for Atletico, fellow Argentine Sergio Aguero netted the other goal Saturday.

They now have 30 points from 16 games, the same as Sevilla and Valencia, who lost 1-0 away to fifth-placed Real Madrid earlier in the day.

“It was really important for us to win tonight, but we had to work hard for it,” said Aguero.

The lively Aguero set up Rodriguez for the first goal after just eight minutes.

As usual on their travels, however, Atletico sat back and allowed Espanyol to take the initiative. In the 59th minute, Nicolas Pareja cleverly set up Sergio Sanchez, and the right-back made it 1-1 with a fierce drive.

Nine minutes from time, with a draw on the cards, Aguero restored Atletico’s lead after the sluggish Espanyol defence had given him three bites at the cherry.

Rodriguez then made it 3-1 in stoppage time with a classy solo goal, as weary Espanyol left gaps at the back.

Valdo pulled a goal back for the hosts three minutes later, but it came too late to save them from another defeat.

The 2007 Uefa Cup finalists are fourth from bottom and in big trouble.

Earlier Saturday, Real Madrid came back to life with a tight, tense 1-0 home win over Valencia.

Real won thanks to an early goal from Gonzalo Higuain and to a stellar display from goalkeeper Iker Casillas.

Valencia left the Estadio Bernabeu complaining about the sending-off of captain Carlos Marchena, and bemoaning their lack of precision in attack.

Real only had 43 per cent possession, due to the counter-attacking style imposed by new coach Juande Ramos.

The win takes Real from sixth to fifth, with 29 points from 16 games.

Valencia are just one point above them now, tied in second place with Sevilla and Atletico, all on 30.

Runaway leaders Barcelona - who are away to fifth-placed Villarreal on Sunday - have 38.

“We just about deserved to win this one,” said Real captain Raul, who came on at half-time for a disappointing Royston Drenthe.

Valencia veteran Ruben Baraja said that “a draw would probably have been a fairer result.”

The only goal came after just three minutes. Arjen Robben skipped past Asier del Horno and set up Higuain, who scored with a powerful left-foot drive.

In the 17th minute Rafael Van der Vaart hit the Valencia post, but the visitors gradually took control in midfield and David Villa came close to equalizing.

Ten minutes into the second half Baraja should have made it 1-1 with a point-blank header, which Casillas managed to push onto the post.

In the 67th minute Marchena predictably picked up a second yellow card, for a mindless foul on the excellent Robben.

Higuain and Guti came close to making it 2-0 for Real, but Valencia managed to produce a spirited finale that almost gave them a point.

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