Levante UD extended their best ever start by beating 10-man Malaga 3-0 on Sunday for a fifth straight victory that kept them level with Barcelona atop La Liga.
In a matchup between the league’s lowest payroll and the biggest offseason spenders, Levante outplayed revamped Malaga by taking advantage of the visitors’ goalkeeping gaffs.
Jose Barkero’s shot took a friendly deflection off a Malaga player in the 14th minute to leave goalkeeper Willy Caballero out of position as the ball crossed the line for Levante’s opener.
Caballero was sent off for handling outside the area in the 28th minute and Juanlu Gomez pounced on the rebound of Barkero’s ensuing free-kick as it came off the defensive wall to tuck under substitute goalkeeper Ruben Martinez.
Martinez hesitated on clearing a long ball into the area in the 41st minute and Aroune Kone scored his second goal of the season to seal Malaga’s second loss.
Levante previously beat Real Madrid, who trail the joint leaders by one point in the table.
“In football and especially in the first division it is very difficult to win five straight games, but Levante have done just that,” said coach Juan Martinez, who is debuting in the top flight with Levante this season after 14 years in the lower divisions.
Yet despite his team’s undefeated record, Martinez sought to keep expectations realistic for the minnows.
“We have to enjoy this moment, but we know the season is very long and we will suffer to achieve our goal [of staying up], even though I hope I am wrong,” he said.
GIJON BEATEN AGAIN
Elsewhere, Sevilla beat rock-bottom Sporting de Gijon 2-1, RCD Espanyol edged Rayo Vallecano de Madrid 1-0 and Helder Postiga scored a pair of goals to give Real Zaragoza a 2-0 win over Real Sociedad.
Manuel del Moral drove a perfectly placed shot from outside the area just inside the right corner of the crossbar to put Sevilla ahead in the 15th minute and defender Martin Caceres doubled the lead in the 57th minute when he headed in a rebound.
Striker David Barral pulled one back for Sporting in the 64th minute, but the Andalusian side hung on for their fourth win in as many home games this season as they moved into fourth place — one point behind Real Madrid and one point ahead of Valencia.
ESPANYOL WIN AWAY
In Madrid, Ndri Romaric’s second-half goal lifted Espanyol over Rayo for their first away victory in La Liga since January.
After a first half of few scoring chances, the former Sevilla midfielder received the ball inside the penalty area in the 56th minute, before slotting home a right-footed shot into the bottom left corner.
Espanyol ended a two-game losing streak, while promoted side Rayo remain winless in their last four games.
“The team was very eager to break our run of poor results away from home,” Espanyol coach Mauricio Pochettino said. “In today’s game we have shown the discipline needed to play away. These are the kind of games that help you grow and improve.”
At La Romareda, Postiga put Zaragoza ahead in the 11th minute with spectacular overhead-kick to volley in a cross from Efrain Juarez.
Leonardo Ponzio came close to doubling the lead when his free-kick hit the post and four minutes into the second half the Zaragoza midfielder set up Postiga in the area to cap Zaragoza’s first win in four games.
After a solid start to the season, Sociedad have lost three consecutive games.
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