Valencia tops Espanyol to end winless run in Spanish league

MADRID (AP) — Valencia has finally won again in the Spanish league, beating Espanyol 2-1 to end a three-month drought and move further from the relegation zone.

Martin Montoya scored from close range in the 17th minute and Santi Mina sealed the victory in the 73rd at Mestalla Stadium as Valencia snapped its eight-game winless streak to open a four-point gap to the relegation teams and has a game in hand.

David Lopez netted for Espanyol in the 85th but Valencia held on to earn the elusive victory.

“We played the game with a high intensity,” Valencia coach Salvador “Voro” Gonzalez said. “This result will give us a lot of confidence to keep on working. To improve, we needed to win, and we are very happy.”

Valencia hadn’t won in the league since a 2-1 result at Sporting Gijon in October, in what was the first match in charge for Cesare Prandelli, the former Italy coach who resigned during the winter break because of the team’s struggles.

The traditional Spanish club was yet to win this year. It had lost both of its Copa del Rey round-of-16 matches to Celta Vigo 6-2 on aggregate.

“I think it was our best game of the season,” Santi Mina said. “We have played well in some other games but we didn’t pick up three points.”

In its previous league match, Valencia was ahead of last-placed Osasuna until the final minutes when it missed a late penalty kick and then conceded an injury time equalizer for a 3-3 result.

Valencia was without Brazilian striker Rodrigo, who on Friday underwent right-ankle surgery and will be sidelined for about three months.

Owned by Singapore investor Peter Lim since 2014, Valencia is the most recent team other than Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid to win the league title, in 2004.

Barcelona moved to second place by beating Las Palmas at Camp Nou on Saturday, while fourth-placed Atletico edged Real Betis 1-0 at home for its third win in a row.

Leader Madrid plays at third-placed Sevilla later Sunday.

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CELTA VIGO 1, ALAVES 0

Serbian midfielder Nemanja Radoja scored an 89th-minute winner as Celta Vigo salvaged a 1-0 home win over 10-man Alaves.

Radoja received a pass from Hugo Mallo inside the area and cleared a defender before finding the net.

It was the second consecutive win for Celta, which moved to eighth place.

Alaves, 12th in the table, played a man down from the first minute of the second half as Moroccan defender Zouhair Feddal was shown a second yellow card after a hard foul.

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SPORTING GIJON 2, EIBAR 3

Eibar scored three times in the first 23 minutes and held on to win at Sporting Gijon and snap a four-game winless streak.

It hadn’t won an away match since a third-round game at Granada.

It was the seventh loss in the last eight matches for Sporting, which remains in the relegation zone.

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GRANADA 1, OSASUNA 1

Last-placed Osasuna saw its winless streak reach 10 games after a draw against second-to-last Granada, which played with 10 men from the 73rd and also had a player sent off in injury time.

Osasuna, promoted to the top flight this season, hasn’t won since beating Eibar 3-2 in October. It has lost seven of its 10 games since then.

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Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

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