The top three all won again at the weekend as Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid continue to dominate La Liga. Neither Barca nor Los Blancos are in vintage form, while Diego Costa and Cristiano Ronaldo continue to eclipse Lionel Messi as Pichichi contenders.
Below par Barcelona saw off Espanyol 1-0 in the Catalan derby on Friday. It was Barca’s 11th win in 12 games and keeps them at the top of La Liga despite an unconvincing display against an organised Espanyol side that now has just one win in the last seven and has failed to score in their last three.
Alexis grabbed the vital goal, his seventh of the season, on 68 minutes when he turned in a long pass from Neymar that went through the legs of two defenders. Barca struggled to break down Espanyol and it was a frustrating night for Lionel Messi, who has now gone four La Liga games without a goal.
Atletico Madrid continue to hang on Barcelona’s coat tails and remain a point behind the leaders after defeating Athletic Bilbao at the Vicente Calderon. David Villa put Atleti ahead on 32 minutes and Diego Costa made it 2-0 five minutes before the break with his 13th goal of the season. Athletic left-back was dismissed in the second half after his second caution.
Almeria climbed off the foot of the table on goal difference after overcoming Valladolid at Los Juegos Mediterraneos. Rodri’s 39th minute goal, his fifth of the campaign, gave the Andalusians their second successive win after being without a victory in their opening 10 games. Replays showed that the Almeria forward had controlled the ball with his hand, but the goal was allowed to stand. Valladolid were reduced to 10 men 15 minutes before the end when Patrick Ebert received a second yellow card.
Real Madrid won 3-2 at Rayo Vallecano, despite the lowly home side enjoying the lion’s share of possession in an exciting encounter at the Vallecas. Cristiano Ronaldo beat Alejandro Galvez to slot into the bottom corner for Madrid’s first in only the third minute. Karim Benzema headed in Gareth Bale’s right-wing cross for the second and Bale set up Ronaldo for his 13th of the season in La Liga after the restart.
A storming comeback from Rayo looked likely when they were awarded two penalties in three second half minutes, both dispatched by Jonathan Viera. Despite dominating their illustrious neighbours, Rayo were unable to fashion an equaliser and their defeat leaves them in last place after Almeria’s win.