Barcelona: Deportivo La Coruna beat visiting Malaga 1-0 thanks to Luis "Pizzi" Afonso's second-half goal, giving new coach Domingos Paciencia a victorious debut in the Spanish league on Saturday. Deportivo's first win in over two months was only their third in 18 rounds. But it was good enough to pull it out of last place after Osasuna fell to the bottom of the standings through a 1-0 loss at Sevilla.
"This win is a boost for us, (but) it's only one win," said Pizzi. "We have to focus on the next game to get more points because we sure do need them."
Deportivo outplayed fourth-place Malaga throughout, with only goalkeeper Willy Caballero and the woodwork keeping the hosts scoreless until Pizzi broke through in the 57th minute at Riazor Stadium. Pizzi, who hit the upright earlier with a free kick, dribbled into the area and wrong-footed defender Martin Demichelis before firing in off the post.
Deportivo defender Carlos Marchena ensured the much-needed three points with a timely intervention to disrupt Francisco "Isco" Alarcon's point-blank attempt in the final minutes. Paciencia, a former Portuguese player who managed Sporting Lisbon and Braga, replaced fired coach Jose Oltra last Sunday. Paciencia shared credit for the win with his predecessor, whose attacking style proved misguided for the promoted club. Paciencia appeared to put more emphasis on defense in his first match with his players taking less risks going forward.
"Four training sessions aren't very many. There was work done here by the coach who came before me," said Paciencia. "Each one has his style of play. (But) I have to thank Oltra for the work he did."
Malaga continued to struggle scoring on the road, where they have just five goals compared to 23 at home. It was their first loss in four rounds. Elsewhere, Levante beat 10-man Athletic Bilbao 3-1 to close in on Spain's top-four Champions League places, while Valencia also came from behind to win 2-1 at 10-man Granada and move into eighth place after their first successive victories this season. Levante's sixth win in nine home games this season lifted it to within one point of fifth-place Real Betis and Malaga.
Striker Aritz Aduriz scored his 11th goal of the season to give Bilbao the lead six minutes in. But Christian Lell leveled for the hosts in the 26th, and Bilbao defender Aymeric Laporte was shown a direct red card for felling Roger Marti with only the goalkeeper to beat in the 43rd. Midfielder Vicente Iborra headed Levante in front two minutes later. Nabil El Zhar then sealed the victory with a long-range shot in the 69th.
Bilbao striker Fernando Llorente, who Juventus are negotiating with to lure to Italy this summer, went on as a late substitute but failed to rally his side.
"The most important thing for me is that we were able to better our rivals after falling behind," said Levante coach Juan Ignacio Martinez. "Despite the initial setback, we always played as a unit and got better as the game progressed."
Marcelo Bielsa's Bilbao remained in 13th place, six points above the relegation zone. Bielsa has yet to solve his team's defensive problems as their conceded 37 goals so far, second worst in the league. At Los Carmenes Stadium, Mikel Rico left Granada a man down in the 34th when he received his second booking. Even so, the hosts struck first when substitute Brayan Angulo looped the ball over goalkeeper Diego Alves five minutes into the second half.
Brazil forward Jonas swung the game in Valencia's favor in the 59th by heading in Pablo Piatti's corner kick. Valencia proceeded to bury the short-handed Granada in their own area, and Piatti finally earned the winner in the 82nd when he volleyed home Roberto Soldado's cross. Granada's winless streak at home reached six games. They are one point above the drop zone.
After a drab first half, Sevilla reacted and managed to edge out Osasuna courtesy of Emir Spahic's header in the 83rd. Sevilla snapped a five-game winless run and climbed into 12th place. On Friday, Betis won 2-1 at Real Zaragoza.
League leader Barcelona hosts crosstown rival Espanyol on Sunday. Also, second-place Atletico Madrid visit Mallorca, third-place Real Madrid host Real Sociedad, and Celta Vigo play Valladolid. Getafe visit Rayo Vallecano on Monday.