BARCELONA, Spain -- Valencia kept pace with Spanish leaders Barcelona on Sunday by beating Espanyol 2-0 for an eighth straight league win despite having coach Marcelino Garcia Toral sent off.
In his first season, Garcia Toral has transformed Valencia from a team that had struggled to compete with the league's best into Barcelona's top challenger.
Undefeated Valencia continued their best ever start to the league through 12 rounds. At four points behind Barcelona, the win set up a critical match next week when Barca visit the Mestalla.
Both of Valencia's goals came after the referee expelled Garcia Toral, which appeared to be for arguing, in the 65th minute. Espanyol had dominated the scoring opportunities until then.
Geoffrey Kondogbia turned the match in the visitors' favor with a long-range strike in the 67th. The French midfielder, who joined Valencia on loan from Inter Milan this season, controlled a clearance before letting loose a curling left-footed shot that slipped between goalkeeper Pau Lopez and his post.
Santi Mina poached a second goal in the 83rd when Espanyol defender Victor Sanchez used his chest to attempt to knock a cross back to Lopez, only to leave the ball in perfect position for the Valencia striker to slip past him and drive it home.
Garcia Toral left regular starters Simone Zaza, Carlos Soler and Goncalo Guedes on his bench for the away match.
Their absence showed through the first hour, as Valencia were fortunate to reach half-time without conceding.
Espanyol's David Lopez, Sergio Garcia and Pablo Piatti all forced saves from Valencia goalkeeper Neto before Gerard Moreno and Sergi Darder both hit the woodwork.