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.
Real Sociedad put five past Osasuna at Anoeta to rise to seventh in La Liga. Ion Ansotegi gave La Real a half-time lead and Inigo Martinez double it straight after the break. Osasuna defender Jordan Loties responded immediately by bringing down Carlos Vela and receiving a straight red card. Jagoba Arrasate’s men then proceeded to put the visitors to the sword as Antoine Griezmann hit his seventh of the season before Chory Castro and Haris Seferovic added last strikes to complete the rout.
Getafe were beaten 1-0 at home by Valencia, with Dorlan Pabon scoring the winner for Los Che five minutes before half-time to end a poor run of form for Miroslav Djukic’s men. Sevilla also suffered a 1-0 home defeat to Celta Vigo after Sevilla goalkeeper gifted Alex Lopez the only goal of the game with a dreadful clearance early in the second half.
Malaga and Betis both went into their clash at La Rosaleda struggling for both goals and form, but between them they served up a real thriller. Roque Santa Cruz put the home side ahead after 13 minutes when he tapped in Eliseu’s cross, only for Juan Verdu to equalize for Betis. Eliseu restored Malaga’s lead on 66 minutes but Jordi Figueras hit back immediately to level once again for Betis. A draw seemed a fair result from an entertaining encounter, but Samuel Garcia grabbed all three points for Malaga in the third minute of stoppage time.
The game between Levante and Granada appeared to be heading for a goalless draw until Granada substitute Piti broke the deadlock and Levante hearts with a long-range free-kick in the 90th minute. Earlier, Levante’s Nabil El Zhar had a penalty saved by keeper Roberto after he was adjudged to have been brought down by Manuel Iturra. It was a similar story at the Martinez Valero, where Ikechuwku Uche scored a 90th minute winner for Villarreal against Elche.