Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid all registered wins at the weekend as the Primera Liga title race in Spain looks set to go right to the wire. Atletico were victorious in Bilbao, Barca won the Catalan derby and Los Blancos hammered Rayo Vallecano.
Atletico Madrid remain on top of La Liga after coming from a goal behind to inflict only a second home league defeat on Athletic Bilbao at the new San Mames. Iker Muniain put the Basques ahead with just five minutes on the clock, but Diego Costa levelled for Diego Simeone’s side midway through the first half with his 25th goal of the season. Koke headed the winner in the second half as Atleti preserved their one-point lead over Barcelona.
It was far from plain sailing for Los Colchoneros, who survived two penalty appeals in the second half and were again grateful to goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois for several fine saves. Athletic, who retain fourth place, finished the game with 10 men after Aymeric Laporte was sent off late on for a second bookable offence.
Lionel Messi scored his third penalty in six days to give Barcelona a narrow 1-0 win over Catalan rivals Espanyol at the Cornella-El Prat. It was another less than straightforward afternoon for Tata Martino’s men, but Barca were given a helping hand 14 minutes from time when the Argentine struck his 23rd goal of the season from the spot past Kiko Casilla.
The Espanyol goalkeeper was then sent off for handling another shot from Messi outside his area and defender Javi Lopez, who had given away the penalty, went between the posts for the remaining eight minutes. Barca were unable to test the stand-in keeper, but the win keeps them just a point behind Atleti.
Gareth Bale scored twice as Real Madrid put a bad week behind them with a comprehensive 5-0 derby victory over Rayo Vallecano at a rain-swept Santiago Bernabeu. Carlo Ancelotti’s men had seen successive defeats to Barcelona and Sevilla severely dent their title hopes, but they got their campaign back on track in style against a battling Rayo side.
The minnows restricted Los Blancos to a single goal – Cristiano Ronaldo’s 28th from Bale’s pass after just 15 minutes – but the floodgates opened after the break as Bale netting his first goals in seven games and defender Daniel Carvajal and substitute Alvaro Morata completed the rout. Madrid could and should have scored more, but the win leaves them three points adrift of Atletico and two behind Barca.