Soldado carries Valencia past Malaga

A goal in each half from Roberto Soldado 0 win at home over Malaga on Sunday and keeps Los Che in third place in La Liga.

Valencia has won six of its last eight games and enters the winter break seven points back of leaders Real Madrid, while Malaga has claimed only one point from its past three contests and resides in seventh.

Soldado got the scoring started in the 36th minute when he got on the other end of a through ball from Jonas and rounded the goalkeeper before rolling the ball into the empty net.

Malaga came close to equalizing on the hour mark when Juanmi's shot from a tight angle narrowly missed, only for Soldado to double his tally one minute later.

Some nice work on the left wing by Jordi Alba allowed him to send a cross to the back post for Soldado, who did well to turn a volley past goalkeeper Wilfredo Caballero from six yards.

Ruud van Nistelrooy was able to create a few late chances for Malaga but Valencia's lead was never seriously threatened.

Real Betis 2, Atletico Madrid 0

Madrid, Spain - Atletico Madrid's struggles continued on Sunday as the hosts suffered a 2-0 defeat to Real Betis, which moved level on 19 points with Atletico after the win.

Pozuelo scored from close range in the 54th minute for Betis after being set up by Ruben Castro, but after putting his team in front, Pozuelo was sent off in the 72nd minute.

However, Atletico was unable to take advantage and Roque Santa Cruz secured all three points for Betis in stoppage time when his initial effort came back off the crossbar but left a rebound attempt that he deposited into the back of the net.

Atletico has lost three of its last five games with Betis claiming a second straight win after a three-game losing skid.

Granada 2, Levante 1

Granada, Spain - Granada won for the third time in five games on Sunday after claiming a 2-1 win over fourth-place Levante at the Estadio Los Carmenes.

A win for Levante could have taken the club into third place, for a few hours at least, but the home side took a 2-0 lead into halftime after a penalty kick from Guillherme Siqueira in the 35th minute and Abel's goal in first-half stoppage time.

Arouna Kone's header on the hour mark handed Levante a way back into the match, but the visitors were denied a share of the points when a deflected shot from Sergio Ballesteros struck the post.

Osasuna 2, Villarreal 1

Navarra, Spain - Villarreal slumped to another defeat on Sunday at Osasuna as the hosts scored two goals in the final 15 minutes to claim a 2-1 win over the Yellow Submarine.

Osasuna nearly went ahead early in the second half when Javad Nekounam struck the crossbar, but Villarreal seized the lead in the 64th minute through Marco Ruben, who was set up by Cani for his fourth goal of the season.

The home side leveled the match with 15 minutes to play when Roland Lamah's cross was brought down by Ibrahima Balde for a calm finish before Sergio Fernandez tallied the winner in the 83rd minute when he got up to head home David Timor's corner kick.

Osasuna has earned 10 points from its last four games with Villarreal claiming just one of a possible 12 points from its four most recent contests.

Racing 0, Real Sociedad 0

Santander, Spain - Racing and Real Sociedad played to a 0-0 draw at the Estadio El Sardinero on Sunday in a clash of bottom-half teams.

The result does little for either side as Racing remains in 19th place while Sociedad is two points above the drop zone after collecting seven points from its previous three games.

Racing squandered a pair of good chances in the first half and then saw Sociedad's Antoine Griezmann denied by the post on a 25-yard effort.

The visitors were reduced to 10 men in the 54th minute as Inigo Martinez collected his second yellow card, but Racing did little to take advantage.