Liga - Soldado puts Valencia top

Sat, 17 Sep 19:03:00 2011

Roberto Soldado fired Valencia to the top of La Liga after his fifth goal in three matches secured a 1-0 win at Sporting Gijon.

Soldado y Banega Valencia afición - 0

La Liga top scorer Soldado, in the running for a place in Spain's Euro 2012 squad, tapped in at the back post after home keeper Juan Pablo could only parry a shot in the 30th minute.

Valencia, held to a disappointing 0-0 draw at Genk in the Champions League in midweek, maintained their 100 percent league record with nine points.

Ikechukwu Uche scored the only goal of the game as Granada edged out Villarreal 1-0 at the Nuevo Los Cármenes.

The on-loan Nigerian powered home a header from 12 yards on 56 minutes to down his parent club.

The result sees Granada leapfrog Villarreal who now have only taken one point from a possible nine as early pressure mounts on Juan Carlos Garrido.

Nerves seemed to strike both sides as 15 cagey minutes passed without either goalkeeper having to make a save. When the chance finally came, it was the hosts who almost opened the scoring as Carlos Martins raced down the Villarreal's right, found Moises Hurtado and when the ball was cut back to Hassan Yebda, the Algerian drove narrowly wide of Cesar Sanchez's post.

On loan Uche almost embarrassed employers two minutes later. Martins was again the instigator with an incisive pass and as Cesar raced out to block, the Nigerian lifted the ball over the bar.

And the loanee again came close just after the half hour mark. This time it was Dani Benitez who outpaced the Villarreal defence and as Uche stabbed the awkwardly bouncing ball goalwards, Cesar was upon him and was rewarded when the ball struck the keeper's chest and away.

Villarreal's fans had to wait five minutes before the break for their side to register a chance of note. Vajero chipped ball into the box found Giuseppe Rossi who could only flick a leg at the ball without making the firm contact he wanted. Roberto thankfully claimed.

And it was Rossi who almost had the final word of the half with a dipping strike from 20 yards that failed to dip enough before flying over the watching Roberto's bar.

Diego Mainz almost handed Rossi a chance to level five minutes after the restart after being caught in possession and saved the situation at the cost of a yellow card.

Rossi had a gilt-edged chance to attempt to punish the defender from the resulting free-kick only to find Roberto in the right place as the ball looped over the wall.

And Villarreal were punished on 56 minutes. Guilherme Siqueira beat Cristian Zapata deep on the Villarreal right and as his cross swung in to the penalty spot, Uche powered a header past the helpless Cesar.

Villarreal boss Garrido responded by throwing on Nilmar and Jonathan de Guzman and the move almost paid dividends when de Guzman curled a shot narrowly wide of the upright.

Nilmar was next involved to greater effect when he dropped in the box under Siqueira's challenge with 13 minutes remaining. Referee Estrada Fernandez pointed to the spot but replays were to show that the Brazilian tripped over his own feet. Justice was done for the hosts, however, when Rossi struck the left hand post and de Guzman somehow missed the follow up from 10 yards.

And it was Granada who came close to extending their advantage in stoppage-time when sub Franco Jara sent a shot wide of the upright after a swift Granada counter-attack although Rossi sent shivers down the home fans' backs with a shot in the last seconds that struck the side-netting.

Malaga were 1-0 winners at Real Mallorca where a Martin Demichelis header was deflected into his own net by Mallorca's Pablo Caceres just before the break.

Ian Hare / Reuters

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