Valencia back on top, Real Madrid held to draw

October 6th, 2008 - 2:41 pm ICT by IANS  

Madrid, Oct 6 (DPA) Valencia are back on top of the Spanish Liga after a tight 1-0 win in Valladolid.A handsome goal Sunday from Manuel Fernandes in the 55th minute, his first for Valencia, was enough for Unai Emery’s team, who have rediscovered their mean touch away from home this season.

The same as in the title-winning days of Rafa Benitez, Valencia were content to let the hosts dominate, soaking up the pressure - then coming forward on the break with speed and precision.

Pedro Leon and Pedro Lopez looked lively down Valladolid’s right flank, but the hosts lacked a sharp forward.

Ten minutes into the second half, Fernandes took a short pass from David Villa and scored with a powerful left-foot drive.

Valencia then had chances to settle the issue on the break, while Valladolid gradually ran out of steam, patience and ideas.

The tight win leaves Valencia with 16 points from six games, ahead of local rivals Villarreal - who Saturday beat bottom side Betis 2-1 - on goal difference.

“It’s good to be back on top,” said Valencia veteran David Albelda. “But the important thing now is just to carry on winning matches, without getting obsessed with the league table.”

Later Sunday, Real Madrid were held to a 2-2 draw at home by lively Espanyol, who were twice in the lead in the Bernabeu.

Former Spain striker Raul Tamudo gave Espanyol the lead from the penalty spot in the 22nd minute, after being clumsily pulled down by Gabriel Heinze.

Just four minutes later, veteran captain Raul Gonzalez levelled for Real by heading in a Sergio Ramos centre from the right.

Luis Garcia restored Espanyol’s lead in the 31st minute by turning in a centre from Roman Martinez - only for Raul to make it 2-2 just before half-time after a melee in the Espanyol area.

Both sides had their chances in an end-to-end second half, but the score remained 2-2.

The draw leaves Real in joint fourth place, level on 13 points with Barcelona, who Saturday drew gasps of admiration by slaughtering Atletico Madrid 6-1.

Barca and Real are one point behind third-placed Sevilla, who thrashed Athletic Bilbao 4-0 earlier Sunday.

Star of the show in the Sanchez Pizjuan was rapid right-winger Jesus Navas, who set up first-half goals for Frederic Kanoute and Renato with precise centres.

Navas, 22, will surely be called up soon for Spain - as soon as he overcomes the anxiety attacks that afflict him periodically.

In the 76th minute, Enzo Maresca set up Adriano to make it 3-0. Five minutes later, eternal sub Ernesto Chevanton completed the rout from close range.

“We really enjoyed ourselves this evening,” said Kanoute, “and I think the fans did too.”

Two points behind Barca and Real, in sixth place, are tough Almeria, who battled out a 2-2 draw at Getafe thanks to late goals from Alvaro Negredo and Jose Chico.

The disappointing draw leaves Getafe joint seventh on nine points with Atletico Madrid.

UEFA Cup heroes Deportivo Coruna, meanwhile, were moving up to joint ninth - level with Espanyol on eight points - by beating Numancia 1-0 on an early goal from Angel Lafita.

Mallorca have fallen to 11th due to a shock 2-0 defeat at home to Sporting Gijon, who had zero points and 20 goals against until the game in Palma.

Mallorca, Thursday, became the first Liga club to be owned by a foreigner, when British businessman Paul Davidson agreed to buy 90 per cent of the club’s shares.

Malaga, for their part, moved out of the danger zone and up to 13th with an impressive 4-0 win up the road in Huelva. Malaga’s star was two-goal hero Eliseu Pereira.

Racing Santander, meanwhile, were winning 1-0 at Osasuna thanks to a late, late goal from Juan Valera.

This defeat leaves Osasuna fifth from bottom, just above Numancia, Huelva, Gijon and bottom team Betis.

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