Molina, Hermoso take Atletico to key win over Rayo Vallecano

Madrid, Apr 9 (EFE).- Atletico Madrid downed home team Rayo Vallecano 2-1 on Sunday in La Liga action to edge closer to No. 2 team Real Madrid, while Valladolid and Mallorca battled to a 3-3 draw, Cadiz blanked Real Betis on the road 2-0 and Almeria prevailed 2-1 against Valencia.

The capital squad’s win put them in third place at 57 points, two points behind Real Madrid but 14 in back of Barca, which could open up almost insurmountable 15-point and 17-point leads over their two nearest rivals on Monday if they defeat No. 11 Girona.

Nahuel Molina and Mario Hermoso scored for Atletico before the break for the team’s fifth win in a row and a fabulous 12-match unbeaten streak that has gotten Diego Simeone’s men into striking distance against the cruising Barca, but – perhaps more importantly – against their cross-town rivals.

Real Madrid had suffered a stunning and grievous 3-2 home loss to Villarreal on Saturday, a defeat that may have wiped out their chances to compete for the title against the surging Catalans.

Molina had gotten Atletico on the board in the 22nd minute after Alvaro Morata delivered a great assist for the Argentine’s first tally since moving from Italy’s Udinese.

Just minutes later, Hermoso also found the net with a neat header from the corner after the home team’s netminder, Stole Dimitrievski, did a bad job of clearing the ball.

Rayo lost defender Florian Lejeune when he was booted after the break but briefly looked like they might be back in the running for at least a draw when Fran Garcia sank a great shot from long range five minutes before time, only to have the clock run out and to see Atletico walk away with the win.

Meanwhile, Valladolid let its lead morph into a 3-3 draw against Mallorca four minutes into stoppage time on Sunday, with Vedat Muriqi hitting on a penalty kick after an exciting match that oscillated from one end of the pitch to the other throughout the contest.

Valladolid had gotten out ahead in the 33rd minute on a tally by Kike Perez, but Mallorca answered back with one by Muriqi 20 minutes later and then went ahead five minutes after that when Manu Morlanes located the cords.

After that, it was replacement Selim Amallah bringing his side level in Minute 68 – one minute after setting foot on the pitch – and Monchu and Muriqi to round things out as the minutes ticked away late in the thrilling encounter.

Monchu had temporarily broken the prevailing 2-2 tie match in the 86th minute, putting Valladolid ahead, but the result keeps them hovering just above the relegation zone in the No. 17 spot, while Mallorca is in 12th place and winless after six games in a row.

And Real Betis was downed at Benitez Villamarin Stadium in Sevilla by Cadiz 2-0 with the win helping the latter fend off relegation and making it more difficult for Betis to secure a Champions League berth next season.

Betis’s effort was stymied by losing two men to straight red cards and playing the last 30 minutes with just nine on the turf and they now stand in the No. 6 spot, six points in back of No. 4 Real Sociedad.

In a controversial expulsion, Sergio Canales was booted in the 38th minute, and then Aitor Ruibal was sent off for hitting Fali in the face at about the one-hour mark.

Cadiz got itself four points above the relegation threshold with the victory, tallying on a penalty kick by Ruben Alcaraz in Minute 53 and then a power-blast by Chris Ramos six minutes later.

And Valencia slipped back below the relegation line with its 2-1 loss to host Almeria, whose Gonzalo Melero and Srdan Babic both scored after the intermission, while Samu Castillejo tallied for Valencia. The result puts Almeria in 16th place, three points in front of Valencia, after securing just one win in its last eight outings.

EFE –/bp

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