VITORIA, Spain – Alaves continued its strong run of form at home with a 1-0 victory Thursday night over Levante and is now 11 points clear of the Spanish league’s relegation zone with a dozen games remaining.
The northern Spanish squad has a seven-game unbeaten streak at home in La Liga since head coach Abelardo took over in December, having garnered 19 out of a possible 21 points over that stretch.
Both teams had clear chances to score in the first 10 minutes of Thursday’s match at Mendizorrotza Stadium, but Swedish forward John Guidetti fired a shot over the crossbar for the home side and Levante’s Chema Rodriguez squandered an opportunity with a weak shot corralled by goalkeeper Fernando Pacheco.
Then in the 29th minute, Alaves had a chance to seize full command of the match when Chema was sent off for a clear foul on Alfonso Pedraza in the area.
A heated argument ensued between members of both teams over the next three minutes, after which captain Manu Garcia failed to convert the penalty kick.
Even so, Levante head coach Juan Muñiz wasted no time in sending on defender Rober Pier for midfielder Jose Campaña in a bid to withstand the numerical disadvantage.
The switch worked as Alaves was held scoreless the rest of the first half and the vast majority of the second half as well, although Alaves had a golden opportunity to score when an unmarked Guidetti fired a shot over the crossbar after receiving a perfect pass in the area from Munir.
Chances then ensued on both ends of the field, with Levante’s Ivi Lopez slamming a long-range shot off the woodwork in the 73rd minute and visiting goalkeeper Oier Olazabal stopping a well-struck header by Ruben Sobrino in minute 76.
Having been unable to take advantage of a short-handed opponent for nearly 50 minutes, that edge disappeared when Munir was sent off for two yellow cards, one in the first half and the second in the 77th minute.
But even though the game was seemingly back on even terms, Alaves dominated the final 10 minutes and nearly scored on a pair of blasts by midfielder Ibai Gomez in the 81st and 83rd minutes that Oier saved.
The home squad finally got its reward in the 90th minute of the contest when defender Victor Laguardia raced toward the goal to get his head on a free kick by Ibai and slot the ball just inside the right upright for a dramatic game-winner.
With the win, Alaves has moved up to 14th place in La Liga and out of danger of relegation at the moment with 31 points, 11 more than 18th-place Las Palmas.
Levante (20 points), however, barely has its head above water, leading Las Palmas only by virtue of goal differential with 12 games remaining.
Deportivo La Coruña and Malaga also are currently in the La Liga relegation zone along with Las Palmas with 18 points and 13 points, respectively.