Negredo’s header helps Valencia defeat Almeria in La Liga thriller

Valencia continue to keep pace with La Liga leaders Real Madrid after defeating Almeria 3-2 at the Mestalla.

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Spain striker Alvaro Negredo came off the bench to head in the decisive goal as Valencia beat his old club Almeria 3-2.

Valencia had seen first-half goals by Dani Parejo and Rodrigo Moreno cancelled out by two strikes from Almeria’s top scorer Tomer Hemed and looked to be heading for a third successive game without a win — until Negredo sent a header crashing into the net with seven minutes left. Winning this game in such dramatic fashion will be a shot in the arm to Nuno Espirito Santo’s side after exiting the Copa del Rey to Espanyol in midweek, and they remain well in the race for a Champions League spot after picking up the three points.

Valencia had taken a first-half lead in six of their previous games at Mestalla and wasted no time in going in front here. Eleven minutes were on the clock when Parejo charged towards the area and played the ball wide to Antonio Barragan before racing raced into the box to steer his team-mate’s cross in at the near post.

The difference between this game and the majority of matches at Mestalla this year is that instead of building on their lead, Valencia were pegged back by their opponents and found themselves level two minutes later. Arsenal loanee Wellington Silva was allowed to skip down the left wing and cross for Hemed, who moved unmarked across the six-yard box to poke home at the near post.

Valencia re-took the lead shortly before the half-hour mark. Andre Gomes released Paco Alcacer with a low ball into the box and the forward, perhaps meaning to shoot, squared the ball to Rodrigo, who slotted into an empty net. But just as before, Almeria hit back five minutes later. Famed heading expert Hemed rose to meet Verza’s cross but got a touch of fortune as the ball deflected off the head of Gomes to wrong foot Diego Alves and land in the top corner.

The Israeli forward then came close to grabbing a hat-trick, heading another corner from Verza off the bar. Valencia were far more dominant in the second half and began peppering the visiting goal straight from the re-start.

In the first minute of the second period Gomes saw a shot from the edge of the area saved by Julian Cuesta, and then the midfielder headed just wide. Desperate for the three points, Nuno threw on Negredo with half an hour remaining, and the forward was quickly involved, testing Cuesta twice in the space of a few minutes and then driving a shot just wide of goal.

LA LIGA RESULTS

But the 29-year-old — who was a big hit during a two-year spell at Almeria earlier in his career – was eventually rewarded for his efforts. Jose Luis Gaya used his pace to beat a defender on the left hand side and sent in a hanging cross to the back post, which Negredo powered into the net with his head.