Getafe ends winless run at Valencia to escape drop
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Getafe fought back for a sorely needed 3-1 victory at Valencia on Sunday, breaking a 15-round winless streak and escaping from the Spanish league's relegation zone.
Getafe's first away win since Oct. 31 and first under new coach Cosmin Contra lifted the struggling Madrid-based side one point clear of the drop.
Forwards Angel Lafita, Ciprian Marica and Pedro Leon scored for Getafe after Eduardo Vargas opened at Mestalla Stadium.
Tempers flared in the final moments after Leon apparently provoked the crowd following his goal. Valencia defender Jeremy Mathieu was sent off for slapping Leon before Contra was also banished from the dugout.
Valencia joined a group of teams fighting for an upper-table finish and a European berth who all dropped points this round.
Real Sociedad was held to a 1-1 draw at Osasuna and Villarreal drew 1-1 at home with Elche, so none were able to fully capitalize of the losses by Athletic Bilbao, Sevilla, and Espanyol on Saturday.
That left Bilbao in fourth place and in control of the last Champions League spot. Sevilla and Real Sociedad are six points behind in fifth and sixth places, while Villarreal is a further point back in seventh.
Valencia had the goal of returning to the Champions League next season, but with this stinging loss it looks set to not even make the Europa League as it sits nine points adrift of Villarreal and in ninth place.
''The reality is that right now we are not better than'' Getafe, said Valencia coach Juan Pizzi.
Valencia appeared to be in control after Vargas headed in Dani Parejo's well-placed corner kick six minutes into the match.
But Lafita unleashed a blistering low strike between two defenders that went in off the post in the 25th, and two minutes later Ciprian Marica dived to head in a pass, beating Valencia's offside trap on a set piece.
Getafe goalkeeper Jordi Codina palmed Philippe Senderos' header over in the 64th and was fortunate Paco Alcacer's shot rattled the woodwork a minute later before Leon sealed the win in the 88th.
''This is very important because the team was in a very delicate situation,'' Contra said. ''This gives us a little bit of breathing room. I believe with this attitude and character we can turn this around.''
Sociedad also started well in Pamplona, with forward Gonzalo Castro hitting in the seventh from Carlos Vela's unselfish pass following a defensive lapse from Osasuna.
But Osasuna settled down and began to threaten from corners and free kicks, while Sociedad defender Inigo Martinez almost scored in the 49th from the center line with a long lob that hit the crossbar.
Osasuna striker Oriol Riera finally converted on his fourth shot attempt from a set piece when he headed in Roberto Torres' cross in the 59th, and Sociedad needed goalkeeper Claudio Bravo to protect the point after Osasuna pressed them into their area in stoppage time.
Villarreal's quest to catch Bilbao was likewise frustrated in a dull match against Elche.
After American sprinter Justin Gatlin took the honorary kickoff at El Madrigal Stadium, Elche went ahead in the 31st when Damian Suarez converted a penalty following Jeremy Perbet's foul on Alberto Botia.
Forward Jonathan Pereira scored the hosts' equalizer a minute before halftime when he used one touch to turn in a high ball that fell to him in the box in one of few scoring chances.
Valladolid beat 10-man Almeria 1-0 at home in a match between two teams fighting to avoid relegation.
Valladolid striker Manucho scored what proved to be the winner in the sixth.
Almeria defender Marco Torsiglieri was dismissed in the 75th with his second yellow card for fouling Manucho.
Almeria was left in the drop zone along with Osasuna and Real Betis.
Atletico Madrid leads the league by one point over Barcelona and three points ahead of Real Madrid with seven games to play.