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By ESPN Staff

La Liga: Betis out of relegation zone after win

MADRID, Jan 14 (Reuters) - Valencia climbed to within three points of second-placed Osasuna on Saturday with a convincing 2-0 win over the Navarrans in the Mestalla.

Leaders Barcelona, who play Athletic Bilbao in the Nou Camp on Sunday, have 43 points from 18 games while Osasuna have 39 points and third-placed Valencia have climbed to 36.

A tightly-contested first half ended with Uruguayan winger Mario Regueiro, who came on to replace the injured Vicente midway through the first half, firing home the opener.

Spain striker David Villa headed the second goal six minutes after the restart, his 11th of the season, while Santiago Canizares pulled off a string of saves to deny Osasuna.

Valencia coach Quique Sanchez Flores said: 'We're in good form but we can always improve. You must always strive for perfection and there are many areas of our game which could be better.'

The win extends Valencia's unbeaten league run to eight games and ends Osasuna's 10-match undefeated streak.

A change of coach failed to improve Atletico Madrid's fortunes as they lost 1-0 to an improving Real Betis in Seville.

Pepe Murica's first game in charge as caretaker coach since taking over from the sacked Carlos Bianchi on Thursday started brightly.

However, an error from Colombian defender Luis Perea gifted the home side the lead after 29 minutes when he failed to control the ball allowing Capi to fire in from the edge of the area.

VICENTE INJURED

Atletico, who pressed hard throughout the match have now gone 10 league games without a win.

Betis have climbed out of the relegation places to 14th with 19 points while Atletico remain a point ahead in 12th.

Valencia carved the first opening after 20 minutes against Osasuna when Spain winger Vicente fired across the face of goal.

But he collapsed in agony while shooting, going over on his right ankle, and was carried off on a stretcher to be replaced by Regueiro.

Valencia dominated without getting a shot on target until Villa created an opening in the 39th minute but Ricardo saved at his near post.

Osasuna were caught out from a throw-in seconds before the break when Mista collected the ball and drew the defence before playing in Regueiro to score in the far corner.

The game was decided early in the second half when Miguel Monteiro's long ball sent Miguel Angel Angulo into the area and the forward's cross to the far post was nodded home by Villa.

But Valencia did not have it all their own way.

Canizares made vital saves to deny David Lopez and Bernardo Romeo in the first half.

In the latter stages of the second half he pulled off two breathtaking one-handed saves on his line to block headers from Carlos Cuellar and Pierre Webo.