Madrid: Fourth-placed Villarreal maintained their fine form since winning promotion back to La Liga when Ikechukwu Uche struck twice and captain Bruno Soriano scored a penalty in a 3-0 win at 10-man Levante on Sunday.
As attention turned to Spain’s lesser lights after their four Champions League participants all won on Saturday, Valencia coach Miroslav Djukic’s hopes of clinging on to his job receded when his side lost 1-2 at local rivals Elche.
Sevilla came out on top in a feisty Andalusian derby littered with bookings and some ugly racist chanting in the stands when they won 4-0 at home to city neighbours Real Betis.
Betis had defender Paulao sent off for a second yellow card three minutes before halftime and the defeat left Pepe Mel’s team, who are competing in the Europa League this season, rooted to the bottom with nine points from 14 matches.
Sevilla are eighth on 19 points, two more than fellow Europa League participants Valencia in 11th. Elche, second division champions last term, also have 17 points in 10th.
“We played a fantastic match against a great rival like Betis,” said Sevilla forward Carlos Bacca who scored the opening goal in the second minute at the Sanchez Pizjuan.
“It was a derby and they are always intense like finals,” the Colombian told a television channel.
“We knew we had to pressure them from the first minute as the home team and the early goal settled us.”
In the early kick-off Levante goalkeeper Keylor Navas was shown a straight red card in the 10th minute at the Ciutat de Valencia stadium when he felled Villarreal forward Uche in the penalty area.