Valencia revival gathers pace against Mallorca
MADRID, Dec 19 (Reuters) - Valencia's drive to rejoin the title race gathered momentum when they swept aside Real Mallorca 3-1 in the Primera Liga on Tuesday.
Goals from Vicente, David Villa and substitute Fernando Morientes put Valencia ahead and a late penalty for Mallorca never threatened the home side's third straight victory.
Valencia remained sixth in the table but are now level on 27 points with fourth-placed Real Zaragoza, who drew 0-0 at Athletic Bilbao, and fifth-placed Atletico Madrid.
Leaders Sevilla welcome struggling Deportivo Coruna on Wednesday when Real Madrid, in third, host Recreativo Huelva.
Second-placed Barcelona face their bogey team Atletico on Thursday.
An injury-ravaged Valencia dropped off the pace in November going six games without a win.
But with key players returning to fitness they are steadily improving as this game showed.
Spain striker Villa fed Vicente to score inside the near post after 39 minutes, and winger Vicente returned the favour in the 57th as he stole the ball and squared for Villa to round the keeper.
Miguel Angel Angulo crossed for Morientes to head the third at the back post in the 82nd minute, and the only blot on Valencia's display was when defender Raul Albiol tripped Mallorca striker Victor for a penalty three minutes from time.
Mallorca's Argentine midfielder Jonas Gutierrez gave Santiago Canizares no chance from the spot.
A faltering Zaragoza, who have only one win in five, were unable to beat battling Bilbao in San Mames.
Bilbao goalkeeper Daniel Aranzubia made crucial saves from Pablo Aimar and Ewerthon to make it three games unbeaten for new coach Mane, as the Basque side edged further away from the relegation places.