La Liga Roundup, Gameweek 16: Barca and Atleti Are Neck and Neck as Madrid Slip Up
Barcelona and Atletico Madrid both won again to remain level at the top of La Liga as Atleti’s three-goal margin brought them exactly level with the Catalans on points, wins and goal difference. Ten-man Real Madrid salvaged a draw at lowly Osasuna to trail the top two by five points.
Atletico Madrid survived an even first half at the Vicente Calderon to overcome fading Valencia 3-0. Diego Costa struck the opener on 59 minutes and Raul Garcia doubled Atleti’s lead moments after coming onto the pitch. Costa missed a penalty but scored another to take his total for the season in La Liga to 17 and seal victory for Diego Simeone’s side. The defeat was too much for the Valencia hierarchy, who sacked coached Miroslav Djukic as Los Che slipped to ninth.
A Neymar double saw Barcelona to a 2-1 victory over Villarreal at Camp Nou. The Brazilian converted a penalty on half an hour after Mario Gaspar had handled, but the Yellow Submarine hit back three minutes after the break through Mateo Musacchio’s fierce header. The second-half introduction of Xavi Hernandez saw Barca up their game against a resolute Villarreal defence and they eventually found a way through when Neymar fired home the winner.
Real Madrid fought back from two goals and a man down to rescue a point against Osasuna in Pamplona. Oriol Riera struck twice for the hosts in the first half and the home side appeared to have cemented their advantage when Sergio Ramos was sent off for two bookable offences. Isco gave Los Blancos some hope, scoring moments before half-time and a Pepe header completed their comeback on 80 minutes, by which time Osasuna had also been reduced to 10 men as Francisco Silva was ordered off after picking up two yellow cards.
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A lively encounter at the Sanchez Pizjuan saw two form teams meet as Sevilla entertained Athletic Bilbao. The game sparked quickly as Alberto Moreno put the hosts ahead on four minutes, but Markel Susaeta took advantage of shaky Sevilla defending to equalise two minutes later. Susaeta had a chance to put Athletic ahead from the penalty spot moments before the break, but Beto saved well.
Real Sociedad put their Champions League woes behind them with a 5-1 thrashing of Betis, who remain rooted to the foot of La Liga. Imanol Agirretxe opened the scoring for the Basques in the sixth minute, but Jorge Molina hit back to level for Betis before three goals in just over 10 minutes – from Jon Ansotegui, Antoine Griezmann and Agirretxe again – left the Andalusians beleaguered. Xabi Prieto completed the rout with a late fifth for La Real.
Ten-man Rayo Vallecano slumped to their sixth home defeat of the season, beaten 2-0 by Granada. Fran Rico put El Grana ahead with a 35th minute free-kick and Paco Jemez’s side were dealt another blow before half-time as defender Nacho was sent off for receiving two bookings, the second for diving in an attempt to win a penalty. Despite gallant efforts by Rayo, the points were made safe for Granada when Riki added their second two minutes from time.
A late goal from David Barral saw Levante end a miserable run of form as they came from behind to earn a much-needed 2-1 win over Elche. Los Granotes had lost five in a row in all competitions coming into the match but the three points halted their slide down the table. Cristian Sapunaru put the visitors in front after 26 minutes but Barral levelled four minutes before the break and then headed in the winner with 10 minutes remaining.
Malaga looked to be heading for stalemate against Getafe as the two sides cancelled each other out for 75 minutes at La Rosaleda, before substitute Roque Santa Cruz hit the winner just moments after stepping off the bench.
Almeria held Espanyol to a goalless draw at Los Juegos Mediterraneos, where Midfielder Verza blasted a 24th minute spot-kick over the bar for the struggling Andalusians. Neither side was able to fashion a winner, though Almeria temporarily lifted themselves out of the bottom three on goal difference until Valladolid’s 3-0 win over Celta Vigo on Monday. Celta were reduced to 10 men when striker Charles was sent off for a second bookable offence and his opposite number Javi Guerra then struck a second-half hat-trick to take his season’s tally to ten goals.