Deportivo beats Malaga 1-0 for 1st win in 2 months
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) -Deportivo La Coruna beat visiting Malaga 1-0 thanks to Luis "Pizzi'' Afonso's second-half goal, giving new coach Domingos Paciencia a victorious debut in the Spanish league on Saturday.
Deportivo's first win in over two months was only its third in 18 rounds. But it was good enough to provisionally pull it out of last place before fellow bottom dweller Osasuna played Sevilla later.
Deportivo outplayed fourth-place Malaga throughout, with only goalkeeper Willy Caballero and the woodwork keeping the hosts scoreless until Pizzi broke through in the 57th minute at Riazor Stadium.
Pizzi, who hit the upright earlier with a free kick, dribbled into the area and wrong-footed defender Martin Demichelis before firing in off the post.
Deportivo defender Carlos Marchena ensured the much-needed three points with a timely intervention to disrupt Francisco "Isco'' Alarcon's point-blank attempt in the final minutes.
Paciencia, a former Portuguese player who managed Sporting Lisbon and Braga, replaced fired coach Jose Oltra last Sunday.
Malaga continued to struggle scoring on the road, where it has just five goals compared to 23 at home. It was its first loss in four rounds.
Elsewhere, Levante beat 10-man Athletic Bilbao 3-1 to close in on Spain's top-four Champions League places, while Valencia also came from behind to win 2-1 at 10-man Granada and move into eighth place after its first back-to-back victories this season.
Levante's sixth win in nine home games this season lifted it to within one point of fifth-place Real Betis and Malaga.
Striker Aritz Aduriz scored his 11th goal of the season to give Bilbao the lead six minutes in.
But Christian Lell leveled for the hosts in the 26th, and Bilbao defender Aymeric Laporte was shown a direct red card for felling Roger Marti with only the goalkeeper to beat in the 43rd.
Midfielder Vicente Iborra headed Levante in front two minutes later. Nabil El Zhar then sealed the victory with a long-range shot in the 69th.
Bilbao striker Fernando Llorente, who Juventus is negotiating with to lure to Italy this summer, went on as a late substitute but failed to rally his side.
"The most important thing for me is that we were able to better our rivals after falling behind,'' said Levante coach Juan Ignacio Martinez. "Despite the initial setback, we always played as a unit and got better as the game progressed.''
Marcelo Bielsa's Bilbao remained in 13th place, six points above the relegation zone. Bielsa has yet to solve his team's defensive problems as its conceded 37 goals so far, second worst in the league.
At Los Carmenes Stadium, Mikel Rico left Granada a man down in the 34th when he received his second booking. Even so, the hosts struck first when substitute Brayan Angulo looped the ball over goalkeeper Diego Alves five minutes into the second half.
Brazil forward Jonas swung the game in Valencia's favor in the 59th by heading in Pablo Piatti's corner kick.
Valencia proceeded to bury the short-handed Granada in its own area, and Piatti finally earned the winner in the 82nd when he volleyed home Roberto Soldado's cross.
"We created enough opportunities and we believed it was just a question of time before the (winning) goal arrived,'' said coach Ernesto Valverde, who has led Valencia to four victories in five games since taking over.
Granada's winless streak at home reached six games. It is one point above the drop zone.
On Friday, Betis won 2-1 at Real Zaragoza.
League leader Barcelona hosts crosstown rival Espanyol on Sunday. Also, second-place Atletico Madrid visits Mallorca, third-place Real Madrid hosts Real Sociedad, and Celta Vigo plays Valladolid at home.
Getafe visits Rayo Vallecano on Monday.