(Updates with Valencia match)
By Richard Martin
BARCELONA, Oct 16 (Reuters) - Former Italy coach Cesare Prandelli got off to a winning start in La Liga with Valencia on Sunday as his team won 2-1 at Sporting Gijon with a double from Mario Suarez to move clear of the relegation zone.
The former Atletico Madrid and Watford midfielder Suarez provided the ideal launch pad for 59-year-old Prandelli, who has vowed to restore Valencia’s ailing fortunes.
Suarez gave the visitors an early lead by finishing off a quick breakaway with a thumping right-footed drive, only for Valencia to be pegged back by Carlos Castro’s header just before halftime.
They retook the lead in the 65th minute when Suarez calmly turned a knockdown from a free-kick into the net from close range, earning his side a third win of the campaign.
Prandelli took over at Valencia earlier this month, following the disastrous reigns of Pako Ayestaran and Gary Neville, who had the two worst records in the club’s history.
The win moved them up to 14th in the standings on nine points, while Sporting, on seven, slipped down to 18th.
Earlier, Athletic Bilbao came from a goal down at halftime to produce a stirring fightback in the Basque derby and beat their old rivals Real Sociedad 3-2 to move into fifth place.
David Zurutuza crashed in a volley from inside the area following a corner to put the visitors ahead in the 16th minute but Athletic responded superby.
Only four inspired saves from Geronimo Rulli prevented an equaliser before halftime but a wonderful individual goal from Iker Muniain deservedly pulled Athletic level in the 51st minute.
The forward cut inside from the left to hook the ball into the far corner and within 10 minutes, Aritz Aduriz had put Athletic in charge with a cool chip over the stranded Rulli after a mix-up between the goalkeeper and defender Raul Navas.
Then the veteran striker Aduriz pounced on more woeful defending to lay on the pass for Inaki Williams to knock in the third in the 72nd minute, although Inigo Martinez made for a tight finish by heading home for the visitors in the 83rd.
Alaves were denied a third win of the season as a late missile from Roberto Rosales saw them draw 1-1 at home to Malaga in a feisty game that ended with each side having a player sent off.
Alaves had taken an eighth minute lead through striker Deyverson but had Theo Hernandez dismissed in injury time for a straight red card while Malaga’s Juanpi earned a second booking three minutes later. (Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Ian Chadband)