Atletico Madrid maintained their hold on La Liga’s last European spot with a 4-1 thrashing of Levante, as Sevilla also surprised on Sunday.
A second-half brace from star attacker Sergio Aguero helped Quique Sanchez’s side keep sixth spot despite Sevilla beating Villarreal.
Aguero provided the first goal for Brazilian Elias in the 19th minute, before the home side was pegged back six minutes before half-time when attacker Felipe Caicedo slotted home a penalty to make it 1-1.
Aguero restored his side’s advantage five minutes into the second half after he hit a powerful shot into the bottom corner from just outside the area.
He completed his double in the 70th minute when the home side were awarded a contentious penalty for a foul on Diego Costa, which Aguero converted by sending Levante goalkeeper Gustavo Munua the wrong way.
The rout was completed six minutes from the final whistle as Munua fumbled a front-post corner into his own net to make it 4-1.
Levante sit ninth after the loss, while Atletico Madrid remain sixth despite Sevilla’s entertaining 3-2 win over Villarreal.
Croatian midfielder Ivan Rakitic and attacker Negredo scored in the opening quarter of an hour to help their side to an early 2-0 lead.
Defender Carlos Marchena’s well-struck 56th-minute goal brought the score back to 2-1.
But Sevilla substitute Romaric took a chance that fell his way to restore the two-goal buffer six minutes later.
Italian forward Giuseppe Rossi curled in a delightful goal in the 73rd minute to keep the pressure on Sevilla.
Former Manchester United attacker Rossi, who came on as a 54th-minute substitute, had a shot bounce off the post moments after his goal.
Villarreal goal-scorer Marchena was sent off for a second bookable offence five minutes from the end as Sevilla held on for a valuable three points.
Villarreal remain fourth but missed their chance to close the gap on Valencia to three points, with Sevilla keeping the pressure on Atletico Madrid to remain in seventh. Only goal difference separates the two sides.
Malaga took a step closer to avoiding relegation with a 2-1 win at Racing Santander.
January signing Julio Baptista continued his goal-scoring run with the opener in the 32nd minute – the fifth time the Brazilian forward has found the net in seven appearances for the club.
He set up the second for Uruguayan striker Sebastian Fernandez three minutes later and Malaga held on despite Markus Rosenberg’s 73rd-minute strike for the hosts.
Malaga are now three points clear of the drop zone, while Racing Santander are only four points ahead of 18th-placed Real Zaragoza.
A Tiago Gomes goal on the hour mark gave Hercules a 1-0 win at home to Deportivo La Coruna.
The three points keeps their hopes of avoiding the drop alive, leaving them now only two points from safety. Deportivo La Coruna are five points clear of the bottom three.
In the day’s other games, Mallorca struck in each half to record a 2-0 win over Getafe.
Jose Nunes and Japanese substitute Akihiro Ienaga found the net to keep Mallorca in 10th, with Getafe remaining four points from the bottom three after the loss.
Sporting Gijon dented Espanyol’s hopes of claiming a European spot with a 1-0 win.
Substitute Nacho Novo scored a 71st-minute goal to leave his side in 11th and extend eighth-placed Espanyol’s winless run to five games.
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