Easy for brilliant Barca
A review of the weekend's action so far in Spain's Primera Liga, including an easy win for Barcelona.
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Tito Vilanova returned to the Barcelona bench with the minimum of fuss on Sunday night as his side got all of their work done inside the first 30 minutes of the Catalan derby with a 4-0 win over Espanyol.
Manager Vilanova, back at the helm after a brief spell out for surgery on his parotid gland after contracting cancer for the second time, was given the easiest of nights as his stellar cast of players made life comfortable for him.
They had scored all of their goals by the time the 30th minute ticked by and after that it was procession football, with Pedro twice denied a hat-trick by the offside flag while other chances also passed.
After Xavi had opened the scoring, Pedro then chimed in with his brace before Lionel Messi set off on his pursuit of 100 goals this year with a penalty.
Atletico Madrid lost ground on the leaders as Kevin Garcia popped up with an equaliser three minutes from time to snatch a point for Real Mallorca in a feisty 1-1 draw at Iberostar Stadium.
The visitors were without striker Radamel Falcao due to suspension and their lack of threat showed in a poor first period.
The match came to the boil inside the final quarter, beginning with Raul Garcia breaking the deadlock from close range in the 72nd minute.
Kevin Garcia pounced to level with the clock ticking down, while moments later players and staff from both teams were involved in an ugly melee as tempers began to fray.
Real Madrid claimed a thrilling 4-3 victory over Real Sociedad in their first outing of 2013 despite playing for 84 minutes with 10 men on Sunday.
Karim Benzema had swept the champions into the lead after just 90 seconds but Jose Mourinho's decision to once again leave Iker Casillas on the bench backfired just six minutes in as Antonio Adan brought down Carlos Vela inside the area and was rightly sent-off.
Xabi Prieto slotted home the penalty on what was to be a memorable afternoon for him and both sides exchanged further goals before half-time as Sami Khedira put Madrid back in front only for Prieto to level again five minutes later.
Cristiano Ronaldo then looked to have sealed the points with two goals in two minutes midway through the second-half, but Sociedad were given another lifeline when Prieto completed his hat-trick with 15 minutes remaining.
However, the visitors themselves were reduced to 10 men on 80 minutes as Dani Estrada was shown a second yellow card for bringing down Ronaldo and the Basques failed to muster another serious effort on goal.
Two goals from Iago Aspas and another wonderful strike from Alex Lopez were enough to hand Celta Vigo only their second win in 11 league games as they moved three points clear of the relegation zone with a 3-1 win over Valladolid.
Aspas enhanced his burgeoning reputation with a fine run and finish from Michael Krohn-Dehli's through ball after just eight minutes, but Valladolid were back level moments later when Alberto Bueno converted from the spot after Javi Varas had brought down Javi Guerra.
However, Aspas restored the lead with a penalty of his own on the half hour mark and Lopez sealed the points seven minutes into the second-half with a brilliant strike from 25 yards that rocketed into the top corner.
On Saturday, Deportivo La Coruña secured their first win since early November in Domingos Paciencia's first game in charge thanks to a wonderful individual goal against high-flying Malaga by Pizzi 12 minutes into the second-half.
The Portuguese winger had looked the most likely to create danger throughout a tepid first period as his free-kick came crashing back off the post.
However, he made no mistake when presented with a chance by a poor pass from Jesus Gamez after the break, turning Martin Demichelis before rocketing a shot high past Willy Caballero.
Malaga were way off the excellent form they had displayed just before the winter break throughout and offered little in reply with Roque Santa Cruz's near-post header which flashed wide the closest they came to an equaliser.
Levante moved back to within a point of the top four as they came from behind to beat Athletic Bilbao 3-1 at the Ciutat de Valencia on Saturday.
Aritz Aduriz had given the visitors an early lead as he stooped to head home Andoni Iraola's cross for his 15th goal of the season but Levante were level 20 minutes later thanks to a thanks to a thunderous strike from Christian Lell.
Athletic were then reduced to 10-men just before the break as Aymeric Laporte was shown a straight red card for bringing down Roger as he broke clear on goal.
Levante made their man advantage count almost immediately as Vicente Iborra beat Gorka Iraizoz to David Navarro's flick-on to give the hosts a 2-1 lead at the interval.
And Juan Ignacio Martinez's men made sure of all three points 20 minutes from time when Nabil El-Zhar sent a low drive from outside the box into Iraizoz's bottom right-hand corner.
Second-half goals from Jonas and Pablo Piatti helped Valencia recover from a goal down to beat 10-man Granada 2-1 at Nuevo Los Carmenes.
The hosts had to play for almost an hour with a man less as Mikel Rico was shown an extremely harsh second yellow card when referee Alberto Undiano Mallenco adjudged him to have handled 11 minutes before half-time.
Despite that blow it was Granada who struck first just four minutes after the break as substitute Brayan Angulo sent a perfectly looping volley over Dani Alves.
The lead, though, only lasted nine minutes as Jonas bulleted home a header from Piatti's corner and the Argentinian then scored himself as he redirected Roberto Soldado's cross-shot into an empty net eight minutes from time.
Emir Spahic's late goal gave Sevilla a much-needed 1-0 win over Osasuna as they put their dismal end to 2012 behind them.
Spahic fired in from Jose Antonio Reyes' knock-down in the 83rd minute to give Sevilla only their first win in six matches after they had slipped down to 14th place before the winter break.
The narrow margin will tell coach Michel his side's problems are not all fixed yet, but they certainly deserved the win after creating the vast majority of the chances.
On Friday night, Ruben Castro and Jorge Molina netted either side of the interval to give Real Betis the perfect start to the new year as they won 2-1 at Real Zaragoza.
Betis are in the hunt for a return to European competition next season and they looked on course to strengthen their position when Castro slotted home against the run of play a minute before half-time.
Molina doubled their advantage just before the hour mark and although Paco Montanes pulled one back, Pepe Mel's side hung on to go level on points with fourth-placed Malaga after their third away victory in four matches.