La Liga: Alvaro Negredo winner lifts Valencia up to third
Former Manchester City striker Alvaro Negredo came off the bench to score the winner as Valencia moved into third in La Liga thanks to a thrilling 3-2 win over Almeria on Saturday.
The hosts went in front twice in the first-half through captain Dani Parejo and Rodrigo, but on both occasions the lead lasted barely a few minutes as Tomer Hemed`s double sent the sides in level at half-time.
However, Almeria couldn`t respond after Negredo powered home Jose Gaya`s cross seven minutes from time to secure all three points.
Victory moves Valencia above champions Atletico Madrid on goal difference, but Diego Simeone`s men can retake third place should they avoid defeat against struggling Granada on Sunday.
Valencia had been surprisingly dumped out of the Copa del Rey by Espanyol in midweek, but seemed on course to make amends when Parejo played a neat one-two with Antonio Barragan before slotting in at the near post.
However Hemed responded with a near post finish of his own from Arsenal loanee Wellington Silva`s cross.
Rodrigo restored Valencia`s lead with a tap in from Paco Alcacer`s scuffed shot, but Hemed levelled again when his header deflected in off Andre Gomes.
Negredo was introduced by Nuno Espirito Santo just before the hour mark and nearly made an immediate impact as he bullied two defenders out the way only to see his headed effort saved by Julian Cuesta.
Alcacer then smashed a shot off the underside of the bar as the home side continued to push for a winner, and they were rewarded seven minutes from time when Negredo`s towering back post header left Cuesta with no chance.
Villarreal remained just three points adrift of Valencia with a 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao at El Madrigal.
Real Madrid loanee Denis Cheryshev opened the scoring with a neat finish from a narrow angle two minutes before half-time.
Bruno Soriano then sealed the win from the penalty spot after Oscar de Marcos had been harshly penalised for handball seven minutes from time.
Earlier, David Moyes`s unbeaten home record as Real Sociedad boss came to an end as former Manchester United striker Manucho handed Rayo Vallecano a 1-0 win at Anoeta on Saturday.
In a game of few clear-cut chances, the Angolan rose highest to power home Roberto Trashorras`s corner 10 minutes from time.
Despite beating Barcelona earlier this month, Moyes has now overseen just two wins in eight league games since taking charge in November.
"I think the disappointment has been that we had the chance to move into the top half of the table, but now we have to look below us," said Moyes.
"Until today we had only lost once and today we didn`t deserve to lose."
Defeat leaves Sociedad still just three points off the relegation zone in 13th, whilst Rayo move up to ninth.