Roberto Soldado’s double sinks Malaga

Roberto Soldado’s clinical brace lifted Valencia to a 2-0 victory over Malaga in the Primera Division.

Soldado struck in either half as Unai Emery’s side strengthened their grip on third place in the standings – and closed to within just four points of second-placed Barcelona after 16 games.

Malaga’s sixth defeat in 16 league games sees them miss the chance to climb to fifth in the standings heading into the winter break.

The hosts were in charge from the outset at the Mestalla and Jonas went close for the hosts after 10 minutes but Willy Caballero made the save.

Caballero was also in action in the 26th minute when Luis Miguel let fly from the edge of the area but the goalkeeper got his angles right and held on.

Malaga found their rhythm as the half wore on and former Valencia winger Joaquin twice went close for the visitors around the half-hour mark, but Diego Alves was able to save on both occasions.

The breakthrough arrived after 36 minutes when Jonas slipped the ball through to Soldado and the striker showed a good burst of pace to take the ball around Caballero and before finishing right-footed into the empty net.

Valencia continued to look the side most likely to add to the scoring after the break but failed to fashion any clear-cut chances until the hour mark, when Soldado doubled their lead with a sublime finish.

Jordi Alba was the architect of the goal, beating the challenge of Martin Demichelis on the left wing before sending over a beautiful cross that was met by Soldado was a crisp volley that flew in at Caballero’s near post.

Ever Banega and Sofiane Feghouli came close to increasing the Valencia tally in what time remained but failed to convert presentable chances, while Ruud van Nistelrooy twice went close for Malaga but Alves was equal to the Dutchman’s efforts.