Spanish La Liga roundup, Apr. 10
Roberto Soldado and Juanma Mata scored two goals apiece to lead Valencia to a 5-0 rout of Villarreal on Sunday, strengthening its hold on third place in the Spanish league.
Soldado scored Valencia's first-half opener at Mestalla stadium, while Mata scored two, Ever Banega added another and Soldado capped the demolition of their provincial rivals in the second half.
Valencia's second straight win lifted it six points clear of Villarreal in its bid for the last automatic Champions League qualifying spot.
Elsewhere, Atletico Madrid moved into sixth place with a 3-0 win over Real Sociedad.
Valencia controlled the first half and went ahead when Villarreal lost possession and Valencia right back Miguel Garcia played Soldado through for the ex-Getafe striker to slot the ball under goalkeeper Diego Lopez in the 14th minute.
Villarreal was fortunate to reach halftime only a goal down, as Valencia failed to take a series of chances.
Valencia defender Marius Stankevicius hit the post with a header in the 17th, and Lopez twice denied Soldado in a four-minute spell as the visitors came close to falling apart at the back.
Nilmar drew a save from Valencia goalie Cesar Sanchez and Stankevicius blocked Borja Valero's shot from the rebound in Villarreal's first threat, 35 minutes into the game.
Nilmar had Villarreal's best chance to equalize just before halftime after Valencia's defense gifted a ball inside the area, but the Brazil striker shot over the top with only Sanchez to beat.
Mata made it 2-0 after working a one-two with Banega before rifling past Lopez with a left-footed shot in the 56th minute.
Villarreal wilted, and Pablo Hernandez raced past a defender before his cutback found Lopez for Valencia's third goal in the 62nd.
Hernandez then beat the offside trap and laid the ball off for Mata to score in the 73rd, and two minutes later Soldado chipped Lopez after Villarreal lost the ball on the edge of its area to complete the demolition.
Soldado has six goals in the last two games and 12 this season.
Atletico put on one of its most dominating performances of the season at Vicente Calderon stadium, creating enough chances to rout the struggling Sociedad before halftime.
Filipe Luis opened the scoring from an excellent pass by Diego Costa in the 12th minute and Jose Antonio Reyes created Atletico's second for Mario Suarez to tap home in the 45th.
Sergio Aguero sealed his team's second straight win on the counterattack in the 78th with his 13th goal of the season.
"Atletico is playing well, it's on the rise, and we didn't know how to stop them," said coach Martin Lasarte, whose Sociedad is five points above the drop zone after its fifth consecutive loss.
The victory took the Madrid side to within one point of fifth-place Sevilla.
Atletico coach Quique Sanchez Flores left striker Diego Forlan on the bench for the second straight week in favor of Costa in attack alongside Aguero, back from a one-game suspension.
"It was a complicated decision (to not start Forlan) because we value him highly," said Sanchez Flores. "He shouldn't be down and just needs to keep working like he has until now."
Aguero forced a diving save from Sociedad goalkeeper Claudio Bravo six minutes before Costa set up Filipe Luis with a backheeled pass for the Brazilian left back to fire into the roof of the net.
Atletico pushed the visitors back into their area, and Bravo had to block Aguero at close range and make a reflex save to deflect Costa's shot off the post in the 38th.
The pressure paid off when Reyes left Sociedad defender Carlos Martinez on the ground with an incredible feint and drew Bravo to him before laying off for Suarez to score.
Aguero's goal was a superb individual effort, sprinting past two defenders before beating Bravo with a shot into the left corner of the net.
Forlan, who had come on for Costa, almost hit Atletico's fourth when he flashed a free kick past the post and then sent a shot over the top.
On Saturday, Lionel Messi scored a brace to give Barcelona a 3-1 comeback win over last-place Almeria to maintain its eight-point advantage over second-place Real Madrid, which beat Athletic Bilbao 3-0.
Madrid hosts Barcelona next Saturday in La Liga in the first of four likely "clasico" matches in the coming weeks.
Earlier Sunday, substitute Rafa Jorda equalized in the 90th minute to give Levante a 1-1 draw at Racing Santander after Victoriano Rivas' own goal in the 32nd.
"It would have been unfair for us to lose this game," said coach Luis Garcia, whose Levante has not lost in seven weeks.
David Barral's 66th-minute goal earned Sporting Gijon a 1-0 win over Osasuna as Manolo Preciado's team remained undefeated in the last seven games at El Molinon stadium.
Ten-man Deportivo held on to draw 0-0 at Malaga after Laureano Sanabria was dismissed on the stroke of halftime, and Espanyol drew 0-0 at Hercules.
With six weeks to play, Almeria has 26 points, four from safety. Malaga and Hercules complete the relegation zone, level on 30 points with Zaragoza, which hosts Getafe- in 16th place with just 34 points- on Monday.