Real Madrid beat Elche to go three points clear at the top of La Liga, as Barcelona and Atletico Madrid both succumbed to Basque opposition. Barca were well-beaten by Real Sociedad while Atletico were humbled at Osasuna. The title race is poised to take another twist next weekend when Los Blancos visit the Vicente Calderon.
Gareth Bale hit an outstanding long-range effort for Real Madrid as Los Blancos completed a comfortable 3-0 win over Elche at the Santiago Bernabeu. Asier Illaramendi fired a low shot into the bottom corner for the opening goal, his first for Real Madrid, and the player with the world’s biggest price tag doubled the lead in the second half with a stunning 35-yard strike for his 10th of the season. Substitute Isco hit a third to seal the win with 10 minutes remaining.
Exuberant Osasuna pulled off one of the biggest shocks in La Liga this season by thumping title-chasing Atletico Madrid 3-0 in Pamplona. Atleti coach Diego Simeone rang the changes for the clash with the mid-table side, but his best-laid plans went badly wrong. Javi Gracia’s men struck three times in a frantic first half, with Alvaro Cejudo, Emiliano Armenteros and Roberto Torres all on target. Simeone’s side improved marginally after the break, but were unable to prevent Osasuna recording a deserved and famous victory.
Anoeta has not been a happy hunting ground for Barcelona in recent seasons and the Catalans endured another miserable trip there as Real Sociedad produced a top-drawer brilliant team display to beat the off-colour champions 3-1. The Basque side, who defeated Barca 3-2 in the corresponding fixture last season, went ahead in the 32nd minute when Gorka Elustondo’s header found the net via the shoulder of defender Alex Song. Lionel Messi equalised four minutes later with a clinical finish, but goals from Antoine Griezmann and David Zurutuza early in the second half ensured Barca left San Sebastian empty-handed for the third time in four seasons.
Basement boys Real Betis were plunged even further into trouble with a 2-0 home defeat to Athletic Bilbao, in which they had two players sent off, were denied two penalties and had what they saw as an undeserved spot-kick awarded against them. Iker Muniain opened the scoring in the first half from the spot and Damien Perquis, who had conceded the penalty, was sent off before the interval. Lolo Reyes also received his marching orders after picking up two bookings, and 20-year-old Guillermo Fernandez scored his first goal for Athletic to seal the points and complete a miserable afternoon for Gabriel Calderon’s side.
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Villarreal remained fifth, ahead of Real Sociedad, with a 2-1 victory over Espanyol at Cornella-El Prat, where goals either side of half-time from Moi Gomez and Jeremy Perbet gave the Yellow Submarine a comfortable lead. Jhon Cordoba’s 77th minute strike gave Espanyol a foothold in the game, but they were unable to secure an equaliser and Villarreal ran out deserved winners.