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La Liga Roundup, Gameweek 15: Barca Shock Defeat Narrows Title Race

Barcelona fell to their first Primera defeat of the season at Athletic Bilbao allowing Atletico Madrid, who won at Elche, to draw level on points with the leaders. Gareth Bale hit a hat-trick as Real Madrid beat Valladolid convincingly to trail the top two by just three points.

Barcelona had the lion’s share of possession at San Mames, but could must barely a chance in front of goal as Athletic Bilbao deservedly inflicted a first defeat in La Liga on the Catalans. The loss came just five days after Barca’s first Champions League defeat at Ajax. Athletic made the champions look pedestrian and coach Tata Martino cut a frustrated figure as his men registered just two shots on goal. Iker Muniain struck the winner for Los Leones, turning in Markel Susaeta’s pass with 20 minutes remaining.

Atletico Madrid had to wait until the 63rd minute to break the deadlock at Elche. Koke gave Atleti the lead and Diego Costa doubled it on 74 minutes with his 15th goal of the season. With Barca losing, Diego Simeone’s side are behind the Catalans only on a marginally inferior goal difference. Meanwhile, Gareth Bale rattled in a treble as Real Madrid thumped Valladolid 4-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu, and set up Karim Benzema for Los Blancos’ second.

Villarreal looked on course for a ninth win of the season after Bruno Soriano put them ahead on 32 minutes against Malaga, but defender Weligton rescued a valuable point for Bernd Schuster’s men, equalising in the third minute of stoppage time. The Yellow Submarine are fifth as a result, yielding fourth place to Athletic Bilbao.

Real Sociedad are sixth after coming from a goal down to beat Espanyol and Cornella-El Prat. Jhon Cordoba gave Los Periquitos a half-time lead, but Antoine Griezmann’s ninth of the season drew La Real level and Christian Stuani deflected Ruben Pardo’s shot into his own goal with two minutes remaining to complete the turnaround.

Pedro Leon’s 79th minute strike was enough to give Getafe the points in a 1-0 win against Levante, while Sevilla remained a place and a point behind Getafe with a 2-1 win at Granada. Carlos Bacca put Sevilla in front after 23 minutes at Los Carmenes and Yacine Brahimi levelled for El Grana on the hour, but Kevin Gameiro won it for the visitors with an 87th minute winner.

Brazilian striker Jonas hit a nine-minute hat-trick either side of half-time as Valencia won 3-0 against 10-man Osasuna to ease the pressure on under-fire coach Miroslav Djukic. The Baques made life difficult for themselves when their captain Francisco Punal was sent off after just 15 minutes for a foul on Dani. Jonas’ treble takes his season’s total to eight.

Celta Vigo recovered from going a goal down against struggling Almeria 3-1 to register their fourth win of the season. Liverpool loanee Suso put the Andalusians ahead on nine minutes, but Fabian Orellana equalized for Celta on 26 minutes before Borja Oubina gave them the lead and former-Almeria striker Charles sealed the win with half an hour left to play.

Bottom side Betis twice let a lead slip against Rayo Vallecano, who moved out of the relegation zone after the two sides drew 2-2 at the Benito Villamarin. Antonio Amaya gave Betis the lead on 26 minutes but Alberto Bueno levelled for Rayo after the break. Joan Verdu restored Betis’ advantage, but Bueno grabbed his second in stoppage time to rescue a point for Rayo.

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