Valencia thrashed by Espanyol; Atletico Madrid beat Betis

May 4th, 2009 - 3:09 pm ICT by IANS  

Madrid, May 4 (DPA) The battle for fourth place in football’s Spanish Liga got hot with Valencia crashing 0-3 away to in-form Espanyol and Atletico Madrid winning 2-0 away to lowly Betis.
Espanyol continued their impressive rescue act Sunday night by thrashing Valencia, with second-half goals from South Americans Roman Martinez, Nicolas Pareja and Nene.

Martinez broke the deadlock in the 66th minute with a fierce left-foot drive and Pareja made it 2-0 with a clever free-kick eight minutes from time.

Nene completed the rout with an injury-time penalty, after Francisco Rufete had been pulled down in the box.

Valencia had dominated possession in the first half, but Euro 2008 heroes David Villa and David Silva were uninspired.

“Today we have taken another small step towards survival,” said Espanyol coach Mauricio Pochettino, who has pulled off a small miracle since taking over from Mane in February.

Later Sunday, Atletico beat Betis thanks to two goals from Diego Forlan, in the 15th and 89th minutes.

The Uruguayan hitman now has 25 goals to his name and holds joint-second place on the scorers’ chart with Valencia’s Villa. Both are just two goals behind Samuel Eto’o of Barcelona.

Valencia are still in fourth place with 56 points, four points behind Sevilla, who won 2-0 away to Villarreal on Saturday.

Atletico Madrid and Villarreal share fifth place, just one point behind Valencia. Then come Deportivo Coruna - who beat Valladolid 1-0 earlier on Sunday - on 53 and Malaga on 51.

The situation at the bottom is now a little clearer after a Sunday of grim relegation battles.

The grimmest battle of all was fought in Pamplona, where Recreativo Huelva came from behind to battle out a valuable 2-1 away win.

Veteran Uruguayan striker Walter Pandinai had given Osasuna an early lead and Huelva seemed doomed to stay rock bottom. But late goals from defenders Ersen Martin and Nasief Morris turned the tables on the hosts and gave Huelva an unlikely win.

“It was really important for us to win today, though we still have a lot of hard work to do,” said Martin.

Huelva are now second from bottom, on 33 points, two points above Numancia, who beat Malaga 2-0 on Saturday. Sporting Gijon and Getafe are both on 34 points.

Gijon seemed to be on their way to a tight home win over Athletic Bilbao, after Mate Bilic gave them the lead on the hour. But international defender Fernando Amorebieta levelled for Bilbao right at the end, to the chagrin of the long-suffering fans in the Estadio Molinon.

Getafe, meanwhile, were going down 2-1 away to Mallorca, on a late goal from Aritz Aduriz.

Former Real Madrid and Spain star Michel made a hapless debut on the Getafe bench, taking over from Victor Munoz on Tuesday. “I still believe that this team can save itself, though we do have several important mistakes to correct,” said Michel.

Then come Osasuna on 36, Betis on 37 and Espanyol on 38. Spanish football is still in a state of awe after Barcelona’s 6-2 thrashing of Real Madrid on Saturday, a result which practically guarantees them the Liga title.

Barca are now seven points ahead of Real with just four games left. They will be champions next Sunday if they beat Villarreal at home, and if Real fail to win away to Valencia.

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