Atletico denied second spot by Valencia

MADRID Sun Mar 31, 2013 11:31pm BST

1 of 3. Atletico Madrid's Radamel Falcao (R) and Diego Costa react during the Spanish first division soccer match against Valencia at Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid March 31, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Javier Barbancho

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MADRID (Reuters) - Atletico Madrid missed out on the chance to go second in La Liga when they were held to a 1-1 home draw by improving Valencia on Sunday.

Radamel Falcao cancelled out Jonas's strike, both goals coming in the first six minutes, leaving Diego Simeone's side third with 61 points and nine games left in the season.

Atletico are a point behind city rivals and King's Cup final opponents Real Madrid in second, 14 adrift of leaders Barcelona.

Barcelona, with 75 points, drew 2-2 at lowly Celta Vigo on Saturday when Real were held 1-1 at Real Zaragoza.

An own goal by Javi Lopez earned Real Sociedad a deserved 2-2 draw at Espanyol to leave them fourth with 48 points, in the last the Champions League qualification berth.

Malaga, who won 3-1 at Rayo Vallecano on Saturday, were fifth with 47 and Valencia sixth with 46.

Valencia made a whirlwind start at the Calderon and took the lead after five minutes when Jonas took advantage of slack defending to score from close range.

Atletico struck back within a minute as Arda Turan crossed and Falcao beat the offside trap to volley the equaliser, his 22nd goal of the campaign.

Atletico soaked up intense pressure to make it to halftime without conceding a second, thanks in part to great saves from Thibaut Courtois.

Atletico wrestled control after the break but either side could have snatched the honours in an entertaining clash. It was only the second time this season that Atletico had failed to win at home in the league.

"A point keeps our direct rivals at the same distance. If you can't win, the least you can do is draw," Atletico coach Simeone told a news conference.

"They have competed in the Champions League, we were in the Europa League. They have the third best squad in La Liga after Madrid and Barca. I have no complaints about our performance."

ZURUTUZA VOLLEY

In Barcelona, Espanyol took the lead after nine minutes when Simao crossed low for former Spain striker Sergio Garcia to dink in a close-range shot.

Sociedad patiently worked their way back into the game and levelled when David Zurutuza volleyed a long-range lob into the empty net from a weak punched clearance.

A wonderful piece of skill from Sergio Garcia won him space on the left and he crossed for Christian Stuani to volley Espanyol back in front again before the break.

The visitors dominated the second period and were well worth the equaliser when Espanyol's Lopez stuck out a foot to block Antoine Griezmann's cross and slotted the ball inside his own near post.

Surprise-packages Sociedad extended their run to 19 games with only one defeat.

In the midday kickoff, Kike Sola scored twice as Osasuna came from behind to win 3-1 at Real Valladolid.

At the foot of the standings, Deportivo La Coruna fired their survival hopes with a 3-2 comeback victory at fellow strugglers Real Mallorca, earning their first away win of the campaign.

Silvio, Carlos Marchena and Riki netted the goals that put Depor 3-1 up midway through the second half, but a scrappy late strike from Emilio Nsue ensured a nail-biting finale at the Iberostar stadium.

Depor remain bottom with 23 points but are now just four behind 17th-placed Zaragoza and safety.

Mallorca are in 19th with 24 points, behind Celta on goal difference.

(Editing by Ed Osmond and Sonia Oxley)

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