Atletico Madrid claim top spot
A review of the weekend's action in Spain's La Liga, as Atletico Madrid moved to the top by beating Real Sociedad.
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In a fitting way for the club to pay tribute to club legend Luis Aragones, who passed away a day earlier, David Villa opened the scoring late in the first half and then dedicated his goal to the late coach, with whom he won Euro 2008 with Spain.
Diego Costa settled Atletico's nerves by scoring the second goal with 18 minutes remaining, and then Joao Miranda and substitute Diego Ribas each scored later on to round off an emotional night.
Despite enjoying their most successful league season since they last won the league title in 1996, Diego Simeone's side had not managed to end the weekend top of the table due to the consistency of Barcelona, but capitalised on the Catalans' 2-3 defeat to Valencia on Saturday to move three points clear at the summit.
Cristiano Ronaldo was controversially sent off as 10-man Real Madrid were held to a 1-1 draw at Athletic Bilbao at San Mames.
The forward was sent off for reacting to a shove by Carlos Gurpegi and then a confrontation with Ander Iturraspe in the 75th minute, although he appeared to be more sinned against than sinner.
Only a minute earlier Athletic had scored a brilliant equaliser through substitute Ibai with only his second touch after coming on, firing in a bouncing ball from the edge of the area.
Madrid held on for a point, having gone ahead after 65 minutes through striker Jese on his first league start, but the loss of Ronaldo now through suspension, for a possible three games, could well have an impact in the title race.
Ruben Castro fired Real Betis to their first win since September with a late double strike.
The 2-0 success against Espanyol meant new head coach Gabriel Calderon's first home match in charge was one to remember, and allowed Betis to see a glimmer of light through the relegation trap door.
After four barren months, Betis needed something to cling to and star forward Ruben gave them it, netting in the 71st and 89th minutes.
Elche moved four points clear of the relegation zone after earning a narrow but deserved win at home to fellow strugglers Almeria.
A fortuitous goal from Cristian Herrera after 59 minutes was all it took for Fran Escriba's side to take all three points, although they had to endure a nervy few minutes of injury time after Damian Suarez was sent off in the 90th minute for picking up two yellow cards.
The result means Almeria replace Elche as the team occupying the final spot above the drop zone, while the Alicante side move up to 15th in the table.
The Catalans' misery was compounded by a sending-off for Jordi Alba as they lost for the first time at home this season.
The hosts remained top of the league on goal difference, but are likely to drop back on Sunday when both Madrid clubs are in action. Should Real and Atletico both win, Barcelona will fall to third place.
Barcelona started well as Alexis Sanchez gave them the lead in the seventh minute, but Gerardo Martino's faltering side released their early grip and went behind to goals from Dani Parejo and Pablo Piatti either side of half-time.
Lionel Messi equalised from the penalty spot, but Paco Alcacer scored the visitors' third goal on 59 minutes and this time Barcelona had no answer.
Rayo Vallecano avoided defeat for the first time in three league games by drawing 0-0 at Levante, but remained in deep trouble in the relegation zone.
This was an evenly matched game at the Ciutat de Valencia stadium which saw few openings until a frantic final 10 minutes, but neither team were able to take any of their chances.
Rayo are now four points from safety, but could see the gap between themselves and 17th-placed Elche widen to seven points should Fran Escriba's side beat Almeria on Sunday.
Levante dropped to ninth, level on points with local rivals Valencia.
Duda scored twice as Malaga came from behind after throwing away the lead to win 3-2 at home to Sevilla.
The Portuguese playmaker opened the scoring in the first half and then grabbed the winner seven minutes from time to move Malaga clear of the relegation zone.
Sevilla looked to have turned the match around in the second half as goals from Carlos Bacca and Federico Fazio put them in front, but the game turned for a second time.
Samu made it 2-2 in the 77th minute before Duda had the final say as Sevilla's European hopes took a hit at the hands of their Andalusian rivals.
Getafe were the width of a post away from earning a much-needed win against Real Valladolid had to settle for the draw which hardly helps either side.
Six defeats and a draw in their last seven competitive matches had seen Getafe tumble down the Primera Division standings and crash out of the Copa del Rey, but that dismal winless run looked set to come to an end as Diego Castro's thunderous second-half stoppage-time strike arrowed towards the top corner.
However, the 25-yard effort crashed against the post and stayed out, and soon afterwards the full-time whistle went to leave Getafe and Valladolid - who had also struck the woodwork early on - still in trouble near the foot of the standings following a goalless draw.
On Friday night, Augusto Fernandez struck a late winner as Celta Vigo continued their recent revival with a 2-1 win at Granada.
Gustavo Cabral's 28th-minute opener for Celta was cancelled out by Youssef El Arabi just before the break but the visitors would not be denied as Fernandez netted the decider two minutes from time.
That gave Celta a third win in four league matches this month, lifting them up to 11th place on 25 points - one place and one point above Granada, who have now lost four of their last six.