Real deal blow to Getafe
A review of the weekend's action in Spain's Primera Division as Real Madrid kept up the pressure on the leading pair.
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Real Madrid kept the pace up with Barcelona and Atletico Madrid at the top of the Primera Division by strolling to a 3-0 victory at Getafe on Sunday, thanks to goals by Jese, Karim Benzema and Luka Modric.
With both their rivals winning the day before, the pressure was on Carlo Anelotti's side to pick up the three points from a stadium they had lost at last season, but Jese settled any nerves they might have had with an early goal.
Benzema doubled their advantage on 27 minutes and midway through the second half Luka Modric got the goal his recent form had merited.
The result means Madrid stay level on points with Barcelona and Atletico Madrid at the top of the table, second to the Catalans on goal difference.
Athletic Bilbao's unbeaten league record at their new San Mames stadium came to an end as Espanyol claimed a deserved 2-1 win.
Goals by Sergio Garcia and Diego Colotto ensured Espanyol wrapped up a notable double, having beaten Athletic in September's reverse fixture, and also making it back-to-back league wins after their 1-0 victory over Granada last time out.
Carlos Gurpegi hit Athletic's reply early in the second period but it could not fire the hosts to an improved overall performance and Colotto duly made them pay with the winner after 65 minutes.
Aritz Aduriz was sent off late on to wrap up a miserable night for the hosts, whose unbeaten home run in La Liga came to an end at the 13th time of asking.
Just outside the European places, Sevilla and Valencia played out a goalless draw notable for a missed penalty from Ivan Rakitic on the hour mark and red cards on both sides - Valencia's Ricardo Costa in the 50th minute and Sevilla's Denis Cheryshev very late on.
Piti scored a crucial goal for Granada as the Andalusian side beat local rivals Real Betis 1-0 to ease their relegation fears while adding to those of their opponents.
In a bad-tempered clash which saw both teams finish the game with 10 men, Piti claimed the winner for the hosts just after the half-hour mark.
Granada's Dani Benitez was shown a straight red card with 10 minutes to go and Antonio Amaya picked up a second yellow card in the dying minutes in a match which saw referee Jose Antonio Teixeira Vitienes show a total of nine yellow cards as well as the two reds.
On Saturday, Lionel Messi moved into joint third place in the all-time Primera Division scoring charts with a brace as Barcelona warmed up for their Champions League showdown against Manchester City with a comprehensive 6-0 demolition of Rayo Vallecano.
Messi struck in the 36th and 68th minutes of a completely one-sided match at the Nou Camp to move above Alfredo Di Stefano (227) in the record books and level with another Real Madrid legend, Raul, on 228 La Liga goals.
At just 26 years old it now seems only a matter of time before the prolific Messi claims the outright record, which is the 251 goals scored by former Athletic Bilbao star Telmo Zarra.
Hugo Sanchez is second on the list and next in Messi's sights with 234 goals for Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Rayo.
Rayo must be wishing they could still call on the Mexico ace as they battle to avoid relegation from the top flight this season, but even he would have been powerless to prevent the Madrid outfit from being swept aside by brilliant Barca.
Adriano opened the floodgates in just the second minute and Alexis Sanchez (53), Pedro Rodriguez (56) and a fantastic Neymar goal (89) added to Messi's double as Barca reclaimed top spot in La Liga from Atletico Madrid, who won earlier on Saturday.
Atletico Madrid reaffirmed their title aspirations with a commanding 3-0 win at home to Real Valladolid, ending a three-game losing streak.
Two goals in the opening four minutes from Raul Garcia and Diego Costa got Atletico off to a flying start and Diego Godin added a third in the second half to seal a morale-boosting victory for Diego Simeone's men.
Atletico's confidence had been rocked by a 5-0 aggregate defeat to Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey semi-finals and a shock 2-0 reverse at Almeria last weekend, which knocked them off the top of the Primera Division standings.
Late goals from Fabian Orellana and Nolito handed Celta Vigo an unlikely 2-0 victory at Villarreal in a clash marred by a serious incident which led to the match being suspended for over 20 minutes.
Orellana had just headed Celta into the lead late in the second half when what appeared to be a smoke bomb was thrown on to the pitch, forcing the referee to take the players from the pitch and leading to most of the supporters leaving the stands.
It led to a lengthy stoppage - and considerable confusion as at one stage it seemed the match would not continue - but eventually the players re-emerged and the four remaining minutes were played, enough time for Nolito to add a second and barely deserved goal for the visitors.
Villarreal president Fernando Roig condemned the action and apologised on behalf of the club.
In comments reported on the Villarreal website, he said: "Villarreal deplores and condemns what happened. We are convinced that this is a person who is outside of Villarreal and has specifically come to harm the club.
"We are making all appropriate inquiries and hope to be able to identify as soon as possible to the perpetrator and come down on him with the full weight of the law.
"Such acts do not represent the fans of Villarreal. In any case, the club wants to apologise and to acknowledge the work of the security forces in the evacuation.''
A wonderful strike by David Barral was all Levante needed to see off Almeria and move up to seventh.
The striker hit a sensational volley after 61 minutes, finally converting one of the numerous chances that had fallen at his feet during the game, although once again Joaquin Caparros' side were grateful to their goalkeeper Keylor Navas, who produced an outstanding save to prevent a late equaliser from Oscar Diaz.
Levante have now gone six games without defeat. Almeria are much closer to the danger zone than their victors, 14th in the tablle, but are safe in the knowledge that they will still have a four-point margin over 18th placed Valladolid come next weekend.
Elche and Osasuna remain locked together in the middle of the Primera Division after playing out a goalless draw on Friday night.
It was a game of few chances with goalkeepers Antonio Tono and Andres Fernandez both proving equal to what was thrown at them.
Both teams now sit on 26 points, just five above the relegation zone ahead of the rest of the weekend's fixtures.