La Liga’s top three all won at the weekend to leave the Spanish title race too close to call. Barcelona and Real Madrid enjoyed home wins against Malaga and Granada respectively while Atletico Madrid put four past Rayo Vallecano.
Barcelona were unaffected by the week’s political wrangling at Camp Nou as they registered a convincing 3-0 win over Malaga. Visiting goalkeeper Willy Caballero was the busiest man on the pitch, keeping Barca at bay for 40 minutes before defender Gerard Pique fired home with his second goal in as many games. Pedro Rodriguez doubled the Catalans’ lead 10 minutes after the break and Alexis Sanchez effectively ended the match with half an hour remaining. While Barca maintain their narrow lead, Malaga are now just two points clear of the drop zone.
Atletico Madrid maintained their title challenge with a 4-2 win at Rayo Vallecano. David Villa pounced on a Rayo error to open the scoring after just eight minutes, and Arda Turan doubled the lead after half an hour, soon after the home side’s Jonathan Viera saw his penalty saved. Viera made up for his miss from the spot by cutting the deficit towards the end of the first half, but Rayo saw all their good work undone as poor defending from a free-kick led to Turan’s second goal and Atletico’s third. A Saul Niguez own goal after 75 minutes made sure of the points for Diego Simeone’s side, with Joaquin Larrivey scoring the second Rayo consolation.
Second-half goals by Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema saw Real Madrid overcome a tough Granada side at the Bernabeu. It was not a vintage performance from Los Blancos, who were playing their seventh game in January, and they were frustrated for large parts of the game. Ronaldo finally broke the deadlock on 57 minutes, shimmying past two defenders inside the area before blasting into the bottom corner. Although the Ballon d’Or winner was unable to find a second goal, his flick on to Marcelo opened up the Granada defence, allowing Benzema to side-foot home the Brazilian’s low cross.
Athletic Bilbao gave a clear demonstration of their Champions League credentials as they crushed Basque rivals Osasuna at El Sadar. Aritz Aduriz scored twice, taking the match away from the hosts with Athletic’s second and third goals after Markel Susaeta’s opener had been cancelled out by Emiliano Armenteros. It got worse for Osasuna in the 76th-minute with the sending-off of Alejandro Arribas, who picked up a second yellow card for a foul on Susaeta. Athletic took full advantage and substitutes Ibai Gomez and Enrique Sola struck late on as the visitors strengthened their hold on fourth place.
Real Sociedad thumped Elche 4-0 to keep up their challenge for a European place and leave their opponents hovering two points above the danger zone. Elche defender Damian Suarez put through his own goal after just two minutes, but it was another starring performance from Antoine Griezmann that led La Real to victory. Griezmann scored twice, either side of a Carlos Vela strike, as the Basques closed the gap on Villarreal.