Negredo's late winner leads Valencia past Almeria

Valencia, Spain ( - Valencia continued its push for a Champions League spot on Saturday as Alvaro Negredo came off the bench to rescue a 3-2 win over Almeria with a goal in the 83rd minute at the Mestalla.

The two sides shared four first-half goals as Valencia struck through Dani Parejo and Rodrigo Moreno, while Tomer Hemed was on target twice in the opening 45 minutes for Almeria.

But with the match seemingly headed for a draw, Negredo came through with his second goal of the season for Los Che with seven minutes to play, moving the club level with third-place Atletico Madrid on 38 points.

It took the home side 11 minutes to move in front when Parejo played a ball wide to Antonio Barragan and then raced to the near post to latch onto a cross and redirect the ball into the net.

But Almeria had an answer two minutes later as Wellington Silva got down the left wing and delivered a near-post cross for Hemed to poke past goalkeeper Diego Alves.

The goals continued in the 28th minute and Valencia regained the lead when Paco Alcacer was released into the area and squared the ball for Rodrigo to slot home.

However, Almeria hit back again within five minutes as Hemed's deflected header left Alves with no chance in the Valencia net and he was left to watch it sail into the top corner.

Hemed nearly completed his hat trick by nodding a ball off the crossbar late in the first half, but Valencia introduced Negredo with 30 minutes to play and he made his impact felt, twice testing goalkeeper Julian Cuesta before heading home the winning goal in the 83rd from a Jose Luis Gaya cross.

Villarreal kept itself firmly in the race for a European spot with a 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao on Saturday as Denis Cheryshev scored a few minutes before halftime for the Yellow Submarine and Bruno Soriano converted a penalty kick seven minutes from time to seal the win.

Manucho scored the lone goal in the 81st minute of Rayo Vallecano's 1-0 victory at Real Sociedad in a battle of mid-table sides, while Espanyol secured a 1-0 win over Celta Vigo thanks to a late goal from Felipe Caicedo.