MADRID (AP) — Valencia ended its five-game winless streak by beating Real Betis 2-1 in the Spanish league on Saturday in the first match since the club canceled its players’ media availability because of the coronavirus.
Valencia said Friday it would start preventing players and coaches from speaking in news conferences before or after games because a journalist who covers the club was found to have the virus. Players also will not be able to talk to reporters in mixed zones after the matches.
The win put Valencia back in the race for a Champions League spot next season and boosted team morale ahead of the second leg against Atalanta in the last 16 of Europe’s top club competition. In two weeks Valencia will need to overcome a 4-1 deficit from the first game in Italy. It was on the trip for that Feb. 19 match that the Spanish journalist was believed to have been infected.
Italy is the European country affected the most by the coronavirus outbreak. Valencia has seen an increase in cases recently.
Real Betis failed to end its own winless streak, which now stands at seven matches in all competitions.
“It’s in the most difficult moments that the great teams show up,” Valencia playmaker Dani Parejo said on Twitter. “Outstanding work by everyone to earn this victory.”
Parejo and forward Kevin Gameiro scored second-half goals to give Valencia its first victory since the start of February, easing some of the pressure on coach Albert Celades after a series of disappointing results.
It had lost 3-0 to both Real Sociedad and Getafe in the league, along with a 2-1 defeat to Granada in the Copa del Rey to end its pursuit of a second consecutive title in the competition. Another setback included a home draw against Atlético Madrid in the league.
Gameiro opened the scoring with a curling shot from outside the area in the 60th minute and Parejo added to the lead from inside the box in the 89th. Real Betis scored its lone goal with Loren Morón in second-half stoppage time.
The victory moved Valencia back to seventh place, two points behind fourth-place Atlético in the final qualification spot for the Champions League.
Real Betis dropped to 14th, closer to the relegation zone than to the Champions League spots. It next plays at Real Madrid, while Valencia hosts Levante in the city derby.
“We haven’t been doing things so badly, but we need to be more effective up front,” Real Betis coach Rubi said. “We have been creating the chances but we haven’t been scoring the goals.”
Striker Charles scored a goal in each half to lead Eibar to a 3-0 home win over Levante, moving the team five points above the relegation zone.
Fabián Orellana also scored for Eibar, which was coming off a 5-0 loss at Barcelona and hadn’t won in five straight games in all competitions.
Levante, which is 10th, beat Real Madrid 1-0 at home in its previous league match.
Celta Vigo moved three points clear of the relegation zone after a 0-0 draw at midtable Granada, while Leganés stayed second-to-last after a 1-1 home draw against Alavés.
Real Sociedad moved to third with a 1-0 win over Valladolid on Friday. Fourth-place Atlético visits last-place Espanyol on Sunday, when second-place Real Madrid hosts leader Barcelona in the “clásico” at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. The Spanish powerhouses are separated by two points.
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