Liga - Valencia third with derby win
Valencia reasserted their superiority over city rivals Levante with a 2-0 win against La Liga's surprise package at Ciudad de Valencia that takes Unai Emery's side into third place, above their opponents.
Levante, ahead of Valencia in the table for the first time approaching a derby match since 1964, suffered their second consecutive defeat to confirm their brief reign as La Liga leaders was a mere flash in the pan, with an own goal from Javi Venta putting them behind in the first half.
Valencia, under pressure until a recent run of three consecutive victories in all competitions, added a second in freak circumstances when a free-kick from Tino Costa eluded Gustavo Munua.
Levante had seen their run of seven consecutive victories halted at Osasuna last weekend but knew that a return to winning ways would have taken them top of La Liga once again with both Barcelona and Real Madrid playing on Sunday.
They enjoyed a good chance to take the lead after only three minutes. Jose Barkero did superbly well to drive in from the right and found Juanlu, who saw his firm effort saved by Vicente Guaita. Juanlu latched onto the rebound but headed wide.
Arouna Kone also threatened for the home side but Valencia grew into the game and could have edged in front themselves when Jeremy Mathieu produced a wonderful cross that was just inches away from connecting with the forehead of Roberto Soldado.
After 31 minutes it was the more illustrious residents of Valencia who took the lead. Alberto Costa prised open the Levante defence with a sumptuous 40-yard pass for Alba, who was about to touch the ball past Gustavo Munua before Javi Venta slid in to get his toe to it and score an own goal.
Valencia were denied a possible second in somewhat controversial circumstances. Victor Iborra appeared to handle just inside the box on 36 minutes but a free-kick was awarded instead of a penalty, despite the furious protestations of the Valencia players.
Levante threatened through Venta as they looked for a reply but lost their discipline and saw three players booked in the space of five minutes towards the end of the half, with Alba joining them for good measure in a niggly end to the first half.
The home side's indiscipline soon cost them in the second half. Nano went into the book for a horrible challenge on Soldado and from the following free-kick, Munua made a complete mess of Costa's shot, the goalkeeper coming far too far across to his near post and allowing the ball to bend around his despairing arm and towards the middle of the net.
Levante looked despondent but could have pulled one back when Barkero's free-kick was met by a firm header from Juanfran. Guaita did enough to hold onto the ball though. Barkero also won and then took a free-kick, teeing up Carlos Aranda who was booked for a dive, becoming in the process the sixth Levante player and eighth overall to be shown a yellow card.
The hosts showed admirable spirit when chasing the game, with Kone spurning one good chance, and found Guaita to be in excellent form. The Valencia keeper produced one superb save to deny Aranda when diving to his left to stop a fierce effort.
Aranda almost forced another chance in the dying seconds but could not prevent Levante from suffering a second consecutive defeat and ceding third place to their city rivals.