Former Italy manager Cesare Prandelli got off to a good start in his coaching debut in the Spanish league on Sunday, leading Valencia to a difficult win at Sporting Gijon and lifting the club out of the relegation zone.
Playing smart football with quick transitions and efficient ball possession, Valencia defeated Sporting 2-1 with two goals by striker Mario Suarez at El Molinon Stadium.
It was the team’s third win in eight rounds as Valencia reached 14th place with nine points, two more than Sporting, now in the relegation zone after its fifth straight loss.
The top four teams in the league played on Saturday. Atletico Madrid thrashed Granada 7-1 to maintain its lead with 18 points. Real Madrid, which won 6-1 at Real Betis, also has 18 points, but a worse goal difference than the city rival.
Barcelona defeated Deportivo La Coruna 4-0 at home in the return of Lionel Messi, staying in fourth place with 16 points, one less than Sevilla, which won 3-2 at Leganes.
Valencia scored first with Suarez’s right-footed shot from inside the area after a cross in the seventh minute, but Sporting striker Carlos Castro equalized with a close-range header in the 41st.
Suarez’s winner came with an easy shot from in front of the goal after Sporting defenders failed to clear a ball crossed into the area in the 65th.
The 59-year-old Prandelli, who coached Italy from 2010-14, was hired just before the international break to replace Pako Ayestaran, who began the season with four straight losses.
Prandelli is Valencia’s eighth full-time manager since Unai Emery’s four-year stint ended in 2012.
Owned by Singapore investor Peter Lim since 2014, Valencia is the last team other than Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico to win the league title, in 2004.
ATHLETIC BILBAO 3, REAL SOCIEDAD 2
Fifth-placed Athletic got the better of Basque rival Real Sociedad to earn its fifth win in its last six games.
The hosts conceded early at San Memes Stadium but rallied with three second-half goals, including a nice lob from outside the area by veteran striker Aritz Aduriz.
Athletic had won four in a row before a loss at Malaga in the previous round.
It trails leaders Atletico and Real Madrid by three points.
ALAVES 1, MALAGA 1
Promoted Alaves was close to winning for the third time this season until conceding a late goal against Malaga.
Brazilian striker Deyverson had put the hosts ahead in the ninth minute but Roberto Rosales evened the match in the 85th.
Alaves, which beat Barcelona at the Camp Nou in the third round, is ninth with 10 points. Malaga is 13th, one point behind.