By Joseph Wilson ,AP
BARCELONA, Spain — Alvaro Negredo struck with a header seven minutes from time to secure a 3-2 victory over Almeria to start an exciting Saturday of late winners in the Spanish league.
Two other matches were decided in the final minutes, as Felipe Caicedo netted in the 89th to snatch Espanyol a 1-0 win over Celta Vigo, while Manucho’s header helped Rayo Vallecano win 1-0 at Real Sociedad.
Like Valencia, regional rival Villarreal also stayed in contention for a top-four finish and a Champions League berth with a 2-0 win at home over Athletic Bilbao, extending its unbeaten streak in all competitions to 15 games.
Negredo went on with half an hour to play and steered in Jose Gaya’s short cross to lift Valencia to a provisional third place, ahead of Atletico Madrid on goal difference before the defending champion hosts Granada on Sunday.
Almeria twice leveled through goals by striker Tomer Hemed.
Dani Parejo opened for Valencia at Mestalla Stadium in the 11th, but Hemed needed only two minutes to equalize when he tapped in a cross by Wellington Silva.
Rodrigo Moreno swept in Paco Alcacer’s off-target attempt to put Valencia back in front in the 28th, only for Hemed to make it 2-2 quickly, before he hit the crossbar three minutes later. Negredo’s goal left Almeria on the edge of the relegation zone.
��It was a tough game, above all in the first half, when they shot three times and scored two goals and hit the woodwork,�� said Negredo. ��We created scoring opportunities but we weren’t able to pull away until the second half.
��We have to ask our fans to be patient because sometimes we won’t play the most attractive match, but we will be effective like today.��