MADRID, Nov 18 (Reuters) - Sevilla topped the Primera Liga on Saturday with a 3-0 home win over Valencia, who had midfielder David Silva sent off after just 17 minutes.
The UEFA Cup holders scored from the resultant freekick through French defender Julien Escude.
Brazilian striker Luis Fabiano and Mali striker Frederic Kanoute completed the victory, their sixth straight home win, after the break.
"We are candidates for the title," said Sevilla defender Aitor Ocio after the game.
Sevilla are top with 25 points, two ahead of second-placed Barcelona who visit Real Mallorca on Sunday.
Earlier on Saturday, Real Madrid went level on 23 points with arch-rivals Barca after an efficient if uninspiring 3-1 win over Racing Santander at the Bernabeu.
Sergio Ramos headed Real in front from a corner after five minutes but they laboured to overcome a resilient Racing.
Jose Antonio Reyes scored after a swift break in the 58th minute and Mali midfielder Mahamadou Diarra wrapped up the points in the 71st.
Racing's Argentine defender Ezequiel Garay pulled a goal back for the visitors with a thundering free kick 14 minutes from time, but Real's night was spoilt when playmaker Guti was shown a straight red card at the end.
Sevilla's Sanchez Pizjuan stadium witnessed a highly-charged opening quarter with a flurry of niggly challenges, which culminated in Valencia's Silva being sent off for catching Dani Alves in the face with his arm.
To rub salt into the wound Sevilla then scored from the freekick as Fabiano nudged the ball into the path of Escude, who drilled a low shot under Santiago Canizares.
Almost immediately Canizares pulled off a magnificent save from Kanoute's point-blank header, before Valencia settled into the game with a man less.
Sevilla goalkeeper Andres Palop denied effervescent lone striker David Villa either side of the break, before the home side effectively settled the game.
Fullback Alves had been a constant threat down the right and played a great pass through for Fabiano to spin clear on the edge of the area, and fire home in the 55th minute.
As the visitors, who had only won once in their last five league matches, pressed to get back into the game they were hit on the break.
A long pass from Antonio Puerta was chested down by Kanoute in the area and dinked past a helpless Canizares in the 71st minute. The goal made Kanoute the league's top scorer with nine.
Valencia, who already have a number of key players out injured, saw striker Villa limp off with an injured ankle after the third goal, and Brazilian midfielder Edu was carried off on a stretcher with what appeared to be a serious knee injury.