Madrid close gap at the top
A review of the weekend's action so far in the Spanish Primera Divison.
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Real Madrid closed to within three points of the Primera Division leaders with a 1-0 victory over Espanyol at Estadi Cornella-El Prat on Sunday evening.
Centre-back Pepe headed home the only goal of the game at the start of the second half as Madrid took full advantage of the goalless draw between joint pacesetters Barcelona and Atletico Madrid on Saturday night.
The victory was Madrid's eighth in nine games since their last league loss, which was the 2-1 defeat at Barca in October, but it was closer than they would have liked with their much-vaunted attack failing to make the most of a host of chances to finish the game off.
Rayo Vallecano picked up a much-needed win away at neighbours Getafe but remain in the Primera Division relegation zone.
Alberto Bueno scored the only goal of the game on 29 minutes in what was an even game of few clear goalscoring opportunities for either side.
Rayo remain 19th in the Primera Division table, level on points with Valladolid and two behind Osasuna, while Getafe remain 10th and have now lost four consecutive league games.
Real Betis remained cast adrift at the bottom of the standings after they were beaten 2-1 at home by Osasuna in a game which saw both sides finish with 10 men.
Roberto Torres fired Osasuna ahead in only the second minute with Betis put under further pressure seven minutes before the break when Nono was sent off for his second bookable offence for a foul on Oriol Riera.
The problems continued for Betis with a 57th-minute own goal from Jordi Figueras putting Osasuna 2-0 up. Then, shortly after, the home side missed a penalty through Ruben Castro following a challenge by Andres Fernandez which saw the Osasuna goalkeeper sent off.
Jorge Molina Vidal did pull a goal back for Betis in the 80th minute but it was not enough to close the gap on second-bottom Rayo Vallecano or next-best Real Valladolid, who are both six points to the good in the other two relegation places.
Levante climbed into the top 10 of the Primera Division standings after claiming a hard-fought 1-0 win over Malaga .
David Barral headed the only goal of the game for the home side from a set-piece corner in the 19th minute as Levante got a much-needed victory after losing six of their previous seven in La Liga.
Barral did well to find the net as he leapt the highest among a mass of bodies to nod Andreas Ivanschitz's corner past Malaga goalkeeper Willy Caballero at the far post.
The result lifted Levante into 10th place in the overall standings, while Malaga slipped to 14th.
Meanwhile on Saturday, Barcelona remained top of the Primera Division after their top-of-the-table clash with Atletico Madrid failed to live up to its billing and finished goalless.
Lionel Messi and Neymar started the game on the bench and even when both emerged in the second half, neither were able to give their side an attacking edge against a highly disciplined Atletico outfit, though Messi forced one of few saves from Atletico goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois with 10 minutes remaining.
Diego Simeone's men showed marginally more ambition than their visitors, their best chances falling to Diego Costa, who never gave Victor Valdes too much trouble, and Arda Turan, who should have made the Barca stopper work harder when presented with a rare shot on goal in the second half.
There were a couple of nervy moments for the hosts in injury time as Barca circled the area, but the Atleti defence held on.
Athletic Bilbao tightened their grip on fourth place with a resounding 6-1 victory at home to Almeria.
Midfielder Mikel Rico opened the scoring with just six minutes played and Ander Herrera doubled the lead just four minutes later.
Aymeric Laporte made it 3-0 just after the half-hour mark, but Helder Barbosa gave Francisco Javier Rodriguez's side faint hope by scoring before half-time.
However, further goals from Aritz Aduriz put the hosts further ahead and a double from substitute Ibai Gomez completed the rout.
Two goals by Brazilian striker Charles earned Celta Vigo a valuable 2-1 win against Valencia in their bid to avoid relegation from the Primera Division.
Valencia had been rejuvenated under coach Juan Antonio Pizzi since he took over at the end of 2013 and pushed towards European qualification, while their opponents were looking at the other end of the table.
But despite going behind to a Dani Parejo goal after 23 minutes they did not lose heart, Charles netting twice (50 and 78) to earn them three important points.
Granada stopped their slide down the standings after recording a rare home win in style, thrashing lowly Real Valladolid 4-0.
The Andalusian side had slumped to within four points of the relegation zone after losing four of their last five matches but they picked up a valuable victory thanks to Jose Recio's brace and further goals from Jeison Murillo and Youssef El Arabi.
Elche were denied a first league win since November as Daniel Carrico's 89th-minute header rescued a 1-1 draw for Sevilla.
Cristian Herrera's 82nd-minute effort had looked set to earn the struggling hosts a crucial three points, but their hopes of moving four points clear of the bottom three were dashed.