By ADAM TROXTELL
Neither of Spain’s top two teams began 2015 in fine form.
In the most high profile match of the day, Valencia topped Real Madrid, 2-1, at the Mestalla. The result sees them jump into fourth place.
Valencia were clinical to get two goals from four shots on target while Diego Alves faced nine from Real Madrid. But the same lineup that won the Club World Cup back in December could not dispatch more than one 18th minute Cristiano Ronaldo penalty.
The comeback was on when Jose Gaya tucked inside down the left and found Antonio Barragan. His shot deflected off the foot of Pepe before passing a wrong-footed Iker Casillas. Just over ten minutes later, Valencia had their winner from Nicolas Otamendi, who rose above everyone to head in Daniel Parejo’s corner to send the home fans into a frenzy.
The day could have been worse for Real had title-rivals Barcelona managed to get anything from Real Sociedad. As is was, a Jordi Alba own-goal sunk the Catalan side 1-0.
In FA Cup action there were no giant-killings on this day as Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal all booked their place in the next round.
Here’s all the action from Europe on Sunday:
SPANISH PRIMERA DIVISION
The goal that was expected never came at the Estadio Anoeta.
Hoping to take advantage of an earlier loss by league leaders Real Madrid, Barcelona knew at least an equalizer would further tighten things up at the top of La Liga. Instead, Jordi Alba’s unfortunate contact with Sergio Canales’ cross gave Real Sociedad a 1-0 win.
The corner that produced the game’s only goal was Sociedad’s second in just the second minute of the game. Beyond that, Barcelona dominated with five shots on target off 12 total attempts.
It just wasn’t to be on this day. Barcelona remain one point behind Real Madrid at the top and even with Atletico Madrid in third. Sociedad, meanwhile, begin a climb from the bottom.
In other La Liga action, Rayo Vallecano overcame an early Getafe goal to win 2-1, while Eibar held on to beat Espanyol 2-1.
ENGLISH FA CUP
Aside from maybe Manchester City, none of the big teams looked like losing in day three of the FA Cup third round.
Two goals in the final 30 minutes from James Milner – the second coming in the 90th minute – gave City a 2-1 win over Sheffield Wednesday. The Owls had jumped on top through a perfectly executed counter attack that was finished off by Atdhe Nuhiu in the 14th minute.
Man City went on to take control of the game, although it took a bit more work than expected to find the goals they needed. Wednesday performed bravely, with the game stretched often in the second half.
Elsewhere, it was fairly easy for Arsenal to top Hull City, 2-0, in a rematch of last season’s Cup Final. Per Mertesacker popped up at the back post for a 20th minute close-range finish before Alexis Sanchez finished the game off with a low-drive into the right corner with eight minutes to go.
Manchester United saw off the challenge of League 1 strugglers Yeovil Town in a 2-0 win. A goalless first half gave way to a volleyed strike from Ander Herrera in the 64th minute. With Yeovil pushing for an equalizer, Wayne Rooney found Angel Di Maria racing free down the left before he chipped the goalkeeper for United’s second.
Chelsea eased past Watford 3-0. Willian, Loic Remy and Kurt Zouma all struck in the second half. There was one upset early in the day when Sheffield United beat QPR 3-0 at Loftus Road.
Here’s all the FA Cup results from Sunday:
Dover Athletic 0, Crystal Palace 4
QPR 0, Sheffield United 3
Sunderland 1, Leeds United 0
Aston Villa 1, Blackpool 0
Manchester City 2, Sheffield Wednesday 1
Southampton 1, Ipswich 1
Stoke City 3, Wrexham 1
Yeovil Town 0, Manchester United 2
Chelsea 3, Watford 0
Arsenal 2, Hull City 0
CONFIRMED: Jozy to Lille. Divock Origi is cutting his loan there short to join up with Lille. Replacement is Dozy.
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