Valencia triumph as Levante, Atleti slip

Roberto Soldado scored both goals to help Valencia to a 2-0 victory over Malaga and take his La Liga tally to 11, keeping his side in third place and in the hunt for a UEFA Champions League place.

Valencia have 33 points, four behind Barcelona and seven behind leaders Real Madrid who defeated Sevilla 6-2 yesterday to ensure they finish the year on top of the table.

In an absorbing encounter, Malaga missed chance after chance with Valencia old boy Joaquin Sanchez looking dangerous all evening. Soldado was not so forgiving in front of goal as he stayed firmly in contention for a recall to the Spanish side in the new year, especially with first choice David Villa out for up to five months with a broken leg.

For his first goal Jonas Goncalves sent a superb ball through the Malaga defence that Soldado latched onto before skipping around goalkeeper Willy Caballero to break the deadlock on 36 minutes. His second was thumped home on the volley on 61 minutes after a great run and cross on the left from Jordi Alba.

Soldado missed the chance to notch a hat-trick with ten minutes remaining when he chipped the ball wide with only Cabellero to beat. Defeat meant Malaga slipped down to seventh and out of the Europa positions.

Levante slip-up at Granada
Levante, meanwhile, stay in fourth place after losing 2-1 at Granada. Guilherme Siqueira cooly slotted home from the spot on 35 minutes before Abel Gomez made it two on the stroke of half-time, converting the rebound after Odion Ighalo struck the post.

Levante rallied and Arouna Kone scored with a near-post header from a corner on 60 minutes, but Granada held on for an important victory that lifted them up to 13th position in the table.

Real Betis won 2-0 away at Atletico Madrid with second half goals from Alejandro Pozuelo, who was sent off late on for two yellow cards, and Roque Santa Cruz to inflict the first home defeat of the season on the team from the capital.

The result created more doubt over the future of Atletico coach Gregorio Manzano who has struggled to find any league form all season. Atletico are struggling in tenth position, a hefty 21 points off pace of city rivals and leaders Real.

Real Madrid won 6-2 away to Sevilla on Saturday thanks to a hat-trick from Cristiano Ronaldo and goals from Jose Callejon, Hamit Alintop and Angel Di Maria. The Spanish giants finish the year three points ahead of Barcelona, who won the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan on Sunday, at the top of La Liga.