It’s “as you were” at the summit of La Liga as the top three all won once again. Athletic Madrid overcame Villarreal, Barcelona beat rock-bottom Betis and Real Madrid won well at Real Sociedad. Atleti are a point ahead of Barca, who in turn lead Real Madrid by two points with just six matches to go.
Atletico Madrid cemented pole position for another week with a 1-0 win over Villarreal at Vicente Calderon, but Diego Simeone’s men were made to work hard for the three points. Raul Garcia headed in the only goal of the game after 14 minutes, but the hosts created few further opportunities and spent the latter stages holding on under pressure from Villarreal.
Barcelona produced an unconvincing display against Real Betis but still beat the bottom side 3-1 to maintain the pressure on Atleti. Lionel Messi opened the scoring from the penalty spot after 15 minutes and the unfortunate Jordi Figueras, who had conceded the spot-kick, doubled Barca’s lead with an own goal midway through the second half. Ruben Castro quickly pulled one back for Betis but Messi struck again in the 85th minute, reacting quickly to having a penalty saved to score from the rebound and seal the three points.
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Real Madrid’s 4-0 victory over Real Sociedad at Anoeta was a lot more difficult than the scoreline suggests as Los Blancos maintained the pressure Atletico and Barcelona. Goals from Asier Illarramendi, Gareth Bale, Pepe and Alvaro Morata ensured Madrid left San Sebastian with three points. Illarramendi opened the scoring against the run of play on the stroke of half-time, his first goal for Madrid coming against his former club. Bale doubled the lead on 66 minutes after a fluffed clearance by home goalkeeper Claudio Bravo presented him the ball on a plate. Late strikes from Pepe and Morata gave the score a flattering look but Madrid deserved their win.
Athletic Bilbao won 2-1 at Levante to maintain their stranglehold on Champions League qualification. A first-half double strike from Artitz Aduriz was enough to seal the points for the Basques as the striker took his goals tally for the season to 11. Levante gained a second-half lifeline when Athletic defender Mikel San Jose deflected Ruben Garcia’s crosses past Gorka Iraizoz and into his own net, but Athletic were comfortable winners.