Nihat on the double

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REAL SOCIEDAD will take a seven-point cushion at the top of La Liga into the New Year after their 3-1 win at Recreativo and Valencia's home defeat to Deportivo La Coruna.

Despite finishing the game with ten men, Sociedad ground out the win at bottom club Recreativo which ensures they head into the mid-season break unbeaten.

Recreativo grabbed the lead on 39 minutes through Raul Molina but just two minutes later Nihat Kahveci equalised.

The Turkish striker snatched the crucial goal on 57 minutes but Sociedad were forced to play the closing 20 minutes of the match with a numerical disadvantage after Darko Kovacevic's dismissal, although the visitors rubbed salt in the wounds with Joseba Llorente's 89th minute goal.

Valencia subjected Deportivo to intense pressure during their tussle in the Mestalla but Roy Makaay's first half goal handed the visitors the points.

But Deportivo had goalkeeper Juanmi to thank for their success as he was in inspirational form, producing a string of stunning saves, including a penalty stop from Pablo Aimar. 

Real Betis also ended their tussle with ten men as they eked out a last gasp 2-1 win at home to Osasuna.

Alfonso fired the hosts ahead on 17 minutes but the complexion of the contest changed with Denilson's 57th minute sending off.

Osasuna applied the pressure with the extra man and looked set to pinch a point with seven minutes remaining courtesy of Ivan Rosado.

But Brazilian midfielder Marcos Assuncao had other ideas and in the 89th minute, he snaffled a precious winner for the hosts.

It was another stormy clash in Catalunya as Espanyol carved out a vital 1-0 success over Valladolid as both sides finished a man short.

Savo Milosevic's seventh minute effort settled the game but Alberto Marcos was sent off after just 21 minutes for Valladolid while Ivan De la Pena followed him for an early bath just past the hour mark.