Barca extend lead at the top
A review of the weekend's action in the Spanish Primera Division as Barca extend their lead at the top.
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Lionel Messi won the much-anticipated duel with Radamel Falcao to fire Barcelona to an impressive 4-1 victory over Atletico Madrid and a nine-point advantage at the top of the Primera Division.
Falcao put Atletico ahead in the first half but, despite enjoying the better of the opening 45 minutes, Diego Simeone's side trailed at the break after a stunning goal from Adriano and a well-taken effort from Sergio Busquets.
Messi was a long way from his magical best but still ended up with two goals - his 89th and 90th of a remarkable 2012 - to quell Atletico's challenge in the second period.
It all added up to a wonderful night for Tito Vilanova's men who not only moved a further three points clear of second-placed Atletico at the summit but also took to the Nou Camp pitch moments after arch-rivals Real Madrid had been held to a surprise 2-2 draw by Espanyol at the Bernabeu.
That stalemate left Madrid 13 points adrift of the Catalans - a deficit even boss Jose Mourinho admitted would be "practically impossible" to overhaul.
Juan Albin's late equaliser had struck another blow to Real Madrid's hopes of retaining their title as they could only draw 2-2 with Espanyol at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Sergio Garcia had given the visitors a deserved lead on the half-hour but Madrid appeared to be heading for victory as goals form Cristiano Ronaldo and Fabio Coentrao either side of half-time put them in front.
However, after missing a host of chances to put the Catalans away, Jose Mourinho's men were punished two minutes from time as Albin turned the ball past Iker Casillas from close range.
The point extends Madrid's unbeaten record at home this season to 12 games but they were left to rue a lacklustre first-half performance and a profligate one after the break.
Ernesto Valverde's winning start as Valencia coach came to an end as striker Alejandro Dominguez's late penalty against his former club earned Rayo Vallecano a surprise 1-0 victory at the Mestalla.
Valverde had guided his new side to three successive away victories - one in the Copa del Rey, one in the Primera Division and one in the Champions League - without them conceding a goal since replacing Mauricio Pellegrini earlier this month.
But that fine run - and his home debut - was ruined by Dominguez as Valencia's league woes returned.
Levante moved back up into fifth with a hard-fought 1-0 win at Real Zaragoza courtesy of Ruben Garcia's first-half strike.
The visitors had fired an early warning shot when Jose Barkero smashed a shot off the post, but they eventually went in front on 19 minutes when Garcia pounced on a loose ball bouncing around the Zaragoza area to slot home only his second senior goal.
Zaragoza pushed hard for an equaliser after the break but they could not find a way through Levante's resilient defence as efforts from Paco Montanes and Edu Oriol flew just off target, whilst a late penalty claim for a handball by Juanfran was waived away by Ignacio Iglesias Villanueva.
On Saturday, Malaga shrugged off a poor first-half performance to beat local rivals Sevilla 2-0 and consolidate fourth spot.
The visitors were lucky to be on level terms at the break after Alvaro Negredo hit the post for a dominant home side after just two minutes.
And Sevilla paid for their profligacy in the second period as Martin Demichelis headed Malaga in front and Eliseu made it 2-0 from the penalty spot after Federico Fazio saw red for bringing down Joaquin Sanchez.
Aritz Aduriz's 11th-minute header consigned Real Mallorca to their ninth defeat in 11 league games, but Athletic Bilbao were just as thankful to goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz for the 1-0 win as they moved nine points clear of the relegation zone.
The visitors went in front with their first serious attack as Andoni Iraola's searching cross found Aduriz free at the back post to head home his 11th goal of the campaign.
Mallorca then created countless opportunities to get back in the game but Iraizoz was equal to efforts from Giovani Dos Santos, Tomer Hemed and Victor Casadesus before the break, whilst Victor also fired wide with an open goal after the interval.
Diego Castro's penalty deep into stoppage time salvaged a point for Getafe from a 1-1 draw against Osasuna in a game desperately lacking in quality at the Alfonso Perez Coliseum.
Both sides had one great opportunity to take the lead in the first half but neither Nino nor Alvaro Vazquez could convert when clean through on goal, and the game only came to life after Emiliano Armenteros had been sent off for the visitors 12 minutes from time for a wild lunge on Juan Valera.
Despite losing a man, Jose Mendilibar's men seemed set for all three points when Kike Sola weaved a way through the Getafe defence to slot home six minutes from time.
However, Osasuna were cruelly denied a second away win of the campaign in the final minute of added time as Oier was harshly adjudged to have handled inside the area and Castro stroked home his fourth goal of the season.
Granada claimed a 0-0 draw at home to Real Sociedad but failed to score for the fifth successive league game.
In a match of precious few chances at the Estadio Nuevo Los Carmenas, the hosts bounced back from shipping four against Malaga last weekend and moved out of the relegation zone on goal difference after the stalemate.
But manager Juan Antonio Anquela will hardly be buoyed by his side's lack of goals although they had their chances.
Anquela was under some pressure for a result after his team were booed off the pitch in their last home match against Espanyol and the Malaga result will have heightened tensions further.