Levante missed the opportunity to clamber into the Primera Liga's top four on Thursday, while Espanyol prevailed in a basement battle.

Elsewhere, Real Sociedad stretched their unbeaten run after seeing off 10 men on home soil.

Levante entered their latest fixture sat just a point adrift of the UEFA Champions League, but ended it stuck in sixth spot following a 3-0 defeat at Rayo Vallecano.

Iganacio Martinez Nacho broke the deadlock for Rayo on 59 minutes, before the points were wrapped up late on.

With Levante chasing the game, Piti doubled the hosts' lead 10 minutes from the end and Franco Vazquez stepped off the bench to add a third in stoppage time.

Espanyol and Deportivo La Coruna locked horns in a tussle between the division's bottom two, and it was the Catalan outfit that emerged victorious.

Both sides had gone six games without success prior to their midweek encounter and were facing up a relegation dogfight.

Espanyol sprang out of the bottom three, though, courtesy of experienced Portuguese playmaker Simao and substitute Christian Stuani, with the pair netting after 31 and 88 minutes respectively.

Real Sociedad are very much in the hunt for European qualification following a 2-1 victory over out-of-sorts Sevilla.

Sociedad have now gone seven games without defeat, while Sevilla are five without a win.

Former Arsenal striker Carlos Vela broke the deadlock at Anoeta Stadium after 18 minutes, only for Gary Medel to restore parity four minutes into the second half.

Alberto de la Bella edged Sociedad back in front on 69 minutes and any hope Sevilla had of finding a route back into the tie evaporated five minutes later when Coke picked up a second yellow card.

Gold revealed during a question and answer session on Twitter that he expects the pair to remain part of Sam Allardyce's plans throughout the 2012/13 campaign.

Diame has been strongly linked with a January switch elsewhere, having shone for the Hammers since linking up with them as a free agent over the summer.

Carroll, meanwhile, is on a season-long loan from Liverpool, but it has been suggested that agreement could be cut short due to the striker's inability to steer clear of injury.

A switch elsewhere in the New Year has also been touted for the England international, which would bring an end to his stay in the East End.

Gold, though, has rubbished claims that a loan could be cancelled due to injury and when asked if Carroll will end the season with the Hammers, he said: "Yes, I believe so."

The Hammers supremo was later pressed on whether there was any truth in reports that Arsenal have expressed an interest in Diame.

He said: "I'm not aware of any offers."

He then went on to say 'I believe so' when asked if Diame would still be a West Ham player next summer.

The Confederation of African Football made the announcement on Thursday night.

The City player beat fellow Ivorian and former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba into second with Cameroonian Alex Song, of Barcelona, in third.

He joined Senegalese forward El-Hadji Diouf, formerly of Liverpool and Bolton, on two victories although he has some way to go to eclipse Cameroonian ex-Barcelona striker Samuel Eto'o who has won four titles.

The Ivory Coast player was crowned at an awards gala in Accra, the capital of Ghana, today after being voted for by the head coaches or technical directors of the national associations affiliated to the CAF.

African Nations Cup winners Zambia were named team of the year with their coach Herve Renard named coach of the year.

Siem De Jong put the Amsterdammers ahead after 25 minutes with Christian Eriksen doubling the lead four minutes after the break.

Viktor Fischer sealed victory with half an hour remaining as the visitors displayed the form which sees them one point behind the top two in the Eredivisie following six straight wins.

The Brazil international attracted plenty of interest during the last transfer window, with a number of clubs in England reported to be chasing his signature.

Chelsea, in their pursuit of creative talent, led the hunt, but failed in their efforts to take the Samba star to Stamford Bridge.

Willian was disappointed to see Shakhtar block a deal, but understands why they were so keen to keep him and believes he will grace one of Europe's top divisions at some stage in the near future.

He told ESPN.com.br: "My goal is to play for a bigger club in a high level league."

On Chelsea, he said: "If I tell you that I was happy, I would be lying. My desire was there, with a 25million euros (?20.3m) offer from a big club like Chelsea. I wanted to pack my things and go, but I can't do that as I am under contract.

"It shows how much Shakhtar like me and shows that I am doing a good job, which is why they wanted me to stay.

"I have tried to convince them many times to let me go. I know that Juventus and Chelsea have made offers to buy me and that motivates me a lot.

"The club know that I want to leave, everyone knows that. The president has told me that he'll let me go for 30million euros (?24.4m) and my intention is to sign for a big club."

Under the plan agreed by the FA Board on Thursday, clubs will face sanctions for failing to deal with racism and discrimination by players, coaches or their fans.

The FA also says it will strive for at least 10% of referees and level one coaches coming from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Players and coaches arriving from abroad will have to undergo mandatory induction lessons to ensure they are aware of the "British cultural environment".

The plan, which will now be submitted to the Government, follows a Downing Street summit called in February after the Luis Suarez and John Terry racial abuse cases.

FA chairman Bernstein said: "This is a very important day. Ensuring the game is inclusive and combats discrimination has been - and remains - at the top of my agenda.

"There remain challenges ahead in this area and all of football would agree we need to find more ways of developing more black and ethnic minority coaches and creating pathways for them.

"Equally, no football player should fear coming out as gay at the risk of suffering discrimination and we continue to strengthen our support programmes to ensure the game is open to all regardless of their sexuality.

"The over-riding message remains that there is simply no place for any form of discrimination in football."

The action plan has been agreed by the FA, Premier League, Football League, Professional Footballers' Association (PFA), the League Managers' Association (LMA) and referees' bodies.

Both the PFA and LMA say they would be in favour of players and managers having it made clear in their contracts they would face action for racist language.

The plan states the organisations would support "standard clauses that address discriminatory language and behaviour, in managers and coaches' contracts."

In relation to possible action against clubs, the plan states the FA would work "with the Premier League and Football League to sanction clubs who repeatedly fail to sanction their employees, who breach their contract or code of conduct, or deal inadequately with fans in relation to discriminatory language or behaviour."

The action plan should be implemented immediately, say the FA - and certainly underway by next season.

The FA will set up an 'Inclusion Advisory Board' to oversee the action plan, and will also call "on UEFA to consider minimum standard codes of conduct" as part of the European governing body's club licensing system.

There have been suggestions that a miminum five-match ban will be brought in for racism but that is some way down the line - it will be considered by a working group.

The action plan states it will "review the sanctions regime to ensure that it is timely, appropriate, proportionate and effective at all levels".

It also calls for the recruitment process for managers and coaches to be reviewed with a voluntary code set up.

Culture secretary Maria Miller weclomed the action plan.

She said: "While we have made significant progress in this area over the last two decades, recent incidents have shown a need for concerted action. "We want to see this action plan implemented and the football authorities to show strong leadership on anti-discrimination at both the professional and grassroots levels of the game. The sports minister will continue to work with the football authorities to make progress in this area."

Miller said she was "encouraged" by the proposals to improve the ethnic diversity of coaches.

There are only a few minor details left to iron out before the 22-year-old will be given the green light to finalise a move to the City Ground.

A fee has already been agreed and personal terms have been negotiated.

Forest boss Sean O'Driscoll is looking forward to getting McLaughlin on board and unleashing his potential - with it hoped he will make a similar impact to that of former forward Garath McCleary.

"We are in the process of signing Stephen and he looks to be a talented boy," O'Driscoll said in the Nottingham Evening Post.

"He can play on the right or the left, he is 22 years old and has great potential.

"He came from the same club as James McClean came from, when he went to Sunderland. They let him go because they knew they had Stephen coming through as well."

McLaughlin will initially link up with Forest's development squad, but he is expected to be knocking on the first team door before too long.

O'Driscoll added: "I don't think you can wait a couple of years for him to come through. He has impressed in training.

"The dilemma is whether you throw him in because he has that potential? Because how long was Garath McCleary here before Steve Cotterill gave him a run of games in the side?

"He was here for a few years when what he needed was games. We want to be in a position where we can give him a chance."