Ruben “Cani” Gracia set up two goals for Villarreal in a 3-0 win over Granada on Friday as they provisionally rose past Real Madrid and into third place in La Liga.
In Malaga, CA Osasuna used an explosive first half to earn a 1-0 win in their first away victory and second overall of the season.
Cani continued to show his excellent form this campaign by helping the promoted Villarreal ease to the victory at El Madrigal.
The attacking midfielder first drew Granada’s defense in the area, before laying off for Bruno Soriano to volley in a left-footed shot at the half-hour mark.
After Giovani Dos Santos toed in Jonathan Pereira’s cross in the 49th minute, Cani passed for Tomas Pina to head in the hosts’ final goal in the 82nd.
Villarreal are four points behind co-leaders Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, and one point ahead of Real before they play later this weekend.
“We had 10 scoring chances alone in the first half and two of our three goals were scored by midfielders,” Villarreal manager Marcelino Garcia said. “It’s satisfying because it means we don’t rely on the scoring form of our strikers. This team is daring and we take advantage of that to score a lot of goals.”
Granada entered the game tied for the league’s best defense with only five goals allowed through seven rounds. However, Villarreal’s flowing attack had little trouble picking it apart, while Granada were limited to a pair of shots by substitute strikers Ivan “Riki” Rico-Sanchez and Odion Ighalo in the 57th and 58th.
Osasuna bossed the match in Malaga early on, arriving in waves and only being kept from a greater winning margin by Malaga goalkeeper Willy Caballero.
Caballero could not keep out striker Oriol Riera’s second effort in the 23rd after he had blocked his first try from a dipping cross launched by Sisinio “Sisi” Gonzalez.
Malaga coach Bernd Schuster sent on reinforcements at halftime and his team greatly improved, but Osasuna held on to break Malaga’s five-game unbeaten streak.