VALENCIA KEEP A GRIP ON THIRD SPOT
Valencia consolidated third spot in the Primera Division and gained a confidence boost ahead of Thursday's Europa League semi-final second leg with a comfortable 4-0 victory over nine-man Real Betis at the Mestalla.
Jonas Oliveira opened the scoring early on and, after Betis had lost Jose Antonio Dorado to a straight red card just before the hour, Valencia wrapped up the victory with goals from Sofiane Feghouli, Roberto Soldado and Pablo Piatti.
To complete a miserable night for Betis, they also had Jorge Molina sent off late on for protesting.
The triumph sees Los Che move four points clear of fourth-placed Malaga, who face Osasuna tomorrow night, and is also just the result they would have hoped for ahead of their European clash with Atletico Madrid, where they will attempt to overturn a 4-2 deficit from last week's first leg.
Valencia kept alive their European hopes with goals in stoppage time at both half-time and full-time at the Vicente Calderon, but they were much quicker out of the blocks tonight and took the lead after just six minutes.
Jonas, who also netted against Atletico, dinked a ball through to Roberto Soldado on the edge of 18-yard box before then racing into the area to get on the end of his team-mate's headed return pass and stabbing a shot past the outcoming Fabricio Agosto.
That was the only goal of the first half, although Valencia came within inches of doubling their lead in the 43rd minute when Sergio Canales saw his 20-yard effort come back off the post.
Valencia thought they had made it 2-0 in the 55th minute when Adil Rami headed in a Canales free-kick, but the effort was ruled out for offside.
The home side need not have worried though, as within eight minutes of that incident they had the match all-but sewn up after Betis lost Dorado to a red card and Feghouli added a second goal.
Betis were reduced to 10 men in the 57th minute when Feghouli, after breaking through down the right, was sent sprawling by Dorado as he tried to cut across the Betis defender on the edge of the area.
Dorado was instantly dismissed and although Betis survived the resulting free-kick, Fabricio parrying Canales' effort, the visitors soon found themselves 2-0 down and on their way to a first defeat in seven games.
Feghouli was the scorer, getting ahead of his marker to volley in Canales' cross from the left.
Betis spurned a great chance to get back into the match 15 minutes from time when Benat Etxebarria robbed Dani Parejo of possession 35 yards out but, with only goalkeeper Vicente Guaita to beat, he dragged his shot well wide.
That was Betis' last real hope of getting anything out of the game, and Valencia sealed the win with two goals in the last three minutes.
Soldado bundled in the third after good work from substitute Pablo Piatti, who made it 4-0 himself in the 88th minute after taking advantage of an awful mix-up in the Betis defence between fullback Nacho and goalkeeper Fabricio.
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