Madrid: Valencia staked their claim for third place in La Liga with a stylish 5-0 win in a head-to-head clash with local rivals Villarreal.
Neither side tried to play down the importance of the match with both teams comfortably clear of the chasing pack, with yesterday's victory pushing Valencia six points ahead of Villarreal.
Valencia had more time to prepare as Villarreal were in European action on Thursday night and it showed as they were far livelier and put plenty of pressure on the Villarreal players.
If the visitors were in good spirits after their 5-1 win over Twente then they were brought back down to earth quickly as Roberto Soldado gave Valencia an early lead.
Although they had further chances it was not until the second half that the floodgates opened against a tired looking Villarreal.
Ever Banega scored in between two goals from Juan Mata and Soldado also got his second of the night.
"We have found it difficult to be consistent and play well for 90 minutes but we have managed to do it in this match. It was an excellent performance," said Valencia coach Unai Emery.
"We also acknowledge the work and the great season Villarreal are having to the extent they have made us adapt our game to them. The only thing we still need to do is be more effective in defence and improve the way we defend with five back."
Villarreal coach Juan Carlos Garrido admitted he was taken aback by the scale of the defeat.
"The scoreline is painful for us because we knew that we could lose but not by such a margin," he said.
Earlier, Atletico Madrid moved onto the verges of the European places with a comprehensive victory over Real Sociedad who have now lost five games on the trot.
After an inconsistent campaign Atletico are still in the fight for a place in the Europa League and have hit form at the right time. Back-to-back wins mean that Atletico are level with sixth-placed Athletic Bilbao who lost to Real Madrid 3-0 and a point behind Sevilla who drew 2-2 with Mallorca.
Atletico were in charge against Sociedad from the start with a deft back-heel from Diego Costa setting up Felipe Luis to put them ahead and then shortly before half time Mario Suarez added another after good work from Jose Antonio Reyes.
First Published: Monday, April 11, 2011, 09:46