Valencia consolidated themselves in third place in the Spanish Liga late on Sunday, with an impressive 4-1 thrashing of local rivals Villarreal, with Spain striker David Villa scoring twice.
“Los Ches” now have 38 points from 18 games, three points less than second-placed Real Madrid, who surprisingly crashed 1-0 away to Athletic Bilbao.
Real are now five points behind leaders Barcelona, who caned sixth-placed Sevilla 4—0 on Saturday.
Valencia were keen to please their fans in Mestalla after being edged out of the King’s Cup on Wednesday by Deportivo Coruna.
“It was an important game for us,” said veteran anchorman David Albelda, “and it was good to have the fans behind us.” It was Ever Banega, Albelda’s midfield partner, who gave Valencia the lead after just seven minutes, with a fierce long-range drive.
Banega, 21, is in the best form of his career and might win a place in Diego Maradona’s Argentine World Cup squad.
In the 29th minute young Villarreal defender Kiko was sent off for pulling down Villa, who calmly converted the resulting penalty.
The one-way traffic continued and David Silva made it 3-0 in the 58th minute, taking advantage of a mistake by Spain team-mate Joan Capdevila.
Brazilian striker Nilmar pulled a goal back for Villarreal, but Villa then sent the crowd home happy by making it 4-1 in stoppage time.
David Villa and Lionel Messi have 14 goals each to their credit.
Valencia are still five points ahead of Mallorca, who regained fourth place earlier on Sunday with a 2-0 home win over Deportivo Coruna, thus maintaining their perfect home record.