La Liga: Neville’s Valencia Win, Real Cruise

Denis Cheryshev and Alvaro Negredo celebrate

Denis Cheryshev and Alvaro Negredo celebrate after Valencia beat Espanyol on Saturday night.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice as Real Madrid kept up the pressure on title rivals Barcelona and Atletico Madrid with a 4-2 victory over Athletic Bilbao.

Ronaldo gave the Merengues a dream start by netting a stunning goal inside three minutes but Javier Eraso levelled on 10 minutes after pouncing on an error by Raphael Varane, who was sent off late in the game for picking up two bookings.

James Rodriguez put the hosts ahead again with a curled finish on 37 minutes and Toni Kroos added to the lead on the stroke of half-time. Ronaldo notched his second goal in the closing minutes, before Gorka Elustondo got a consolation for Athletic.

A fourth consecutive home win under Zinedine Zidane lifted Real up to second in the table — two points ahead of Atletico and one ahead of Barcelona, who are both in action on Sunday, and the Catalans also have another game in hand.

Gary Neville ended his long wait for a first La Liga win as Valencia coach as late goals from Alvaro Negredo and Denis Cheryshev helped his side come from behind to beat Espanyol 2-1.


Oscar Duarte’s 52nd-minute header gave the struggling Catalans the lead and looked set to condemn Neville to a third consecutive league defeat which would have left his side just two points above the relegation zone.

But substitute Negredo pulled them level with a deflected finish on 70 minutes and new recruit Cheryshev scored with a diving header six minutes later to give Valencia the lead for the first time in 10 league games under Neville.

Villarreal‘s top-four hopes remain on track after Roberto Soldado’s early goal earned them a 1-0 win over Malaga.

The former Tottenham striker scored the game’s only goal after 18 minutes, firing into the bottom corner from the edge of the area after a one-two with Leo Baptistao.

Although they only managed one goal, Marcelino’s men were utterly dominant and worthy of a win that extended their unbeaten run in the league to 11 games.

They stay in fourth place, 11 points ahead of nearest challengers Sevilla, while Malaga remain in 10th spot.