MADRID - A Maxi Rodriguez double pushed Atletico Madrid up to second in the Primera Liga with a 3-2 victory at Espanyol and champions Real Madrid beat Valencia 1-0 on Saturday. Argentina midfielder Maxi scored after seven minutes and at the end to complete Atletico's victory after compatriot Sergio Aguero had made it 3-1 with nine minutes to go. Sergio Sanchez levelled for Espanyol early in the second half and Valdo nicked one deep into stoppage time but Atletico extended their unbeaten run to 15 games in all competitions. Javier Aguirre's side are ahead of Valencia and Sevilla on goal difference with 30 points from 16 games, eight behind runaway leaders Barcelona who visit Villarreal on Sunday. Fourth-placed Sevilla travel to troubled Real Mallorca on Sunday. Real climbed to fifth with 29 points, ahead of Villarreal on goal difference, after an early strike from Gonzalo Higuain gave them a 1-0 home win over Valencia. It was Juande Ramos's first league win since replacing Bernd Schuster as coach last week. RIGHT FLANK Valencia were undone at the Bernabeu when the outstanding Arjen Robben cut in from the right flank and set up Higuain to score with a first-time shot in the third minute. Robben was a constant menace and Rafael van der Vaart hit the woodwork as the home side dominated before the visitors came to life after half an hour. David Villa twice forced Iker Casillas into sharp saves as they pressed before the break and after halftime and the keeper made a stunning point-blank parry from a Ruben Baraja header which he pushed on to the post. Carlos Marchena received his second yellow card for a foul on Robben in the 67th minute but Real almost paid for wasteful finishing against 10 men as Valencia piled forward at the end. "There were few goals for the opportunities that were created. We did not manage the kill the game off because of a lack of precision," Ramos said. "But the important thing was the willingness of the whole team to do well."
20 December 2008
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