Atletico move to the top

  • Last Updated: March 23 2014, 22:06 GMT

A review of the weekend's action in the Spanish Primera Division.

Diego Costa scores for Atletico Madrid
Diego Costa scores for Atletico Madrid

Barcelona reignited their title challenge with a 4-3 victory over Real Madrid in a pulsating Clasico which had a little bit of everything.

There were stunning individual performances on both sides, three penalties, a red card, and somewhere amid it all, a Lionel Messi hat-trick. Karim Benzema and Angel Di Maria bossed the first half, but both found themselves substituted in the second as Madrid moved into crisis management.

Andres Iniesta put Barca ahead just four minutes in, but Benzema's brace turned it around before Messi levelled before the break. Cristiano Ronaldo's penalty restored Madrid's lead but after Sergio Ramos brought down Neymar in the area, Madrid were down to 10 and two Messi penalties won it for the visitors.

Atletico Madrid are now the leaders having earlier capitalised on the second-half dismissal of Real Betis forward Braian Rodriguez to win 2-0.

Rodriguez saw red in the 55th minute for his second bookable offence, and Atletico scored twice in the next 10 minutes through Gabi and Diego Costa as rock-bottom Real Betis were made to pay.

It was a sudden capitulation from Betis, who had frustrated Atletico for long periods in the first half. The Sevilla club, knocked out of the Europa League by rivals Sevilla on Thursday night, have turned their focus completely to trying to dig their way out of a significant hole at the foot of the standings but are running out of time.

Javi Fuego netted a first-half brace as Valencia got back to winning ways in La Liga with a 2-1 victory over Villarreal at the Mestalla.

Juan Antonio Pizzi's side, who cruised into the quarter-finals of the Europa League with a 4-0 aggregate win over Ludogorets on Thursday, ended a three-match winless streak in the league on Sunday, moving up two places into eighth as a result.

The defeat saw derby rivals Villarreal, who scored a late consolation through Giovani dos Santos, move down a place into seventh in the standings.

Also on Sunday, Sevilla built on their Europa League triumph over Real Betis in mid-week by beating Osasuna 2-1 away from home.

Jairo Samperio opened the scoring midway through the first half with a fine individual goal, and Carlos Bacca doubled the lead from the penalty spot just before half-time in a highly controversial incident, which saw Osasuna coach Javi Gracia sent away from his dugout for protesting the decision.

Javier Acuna scored a fine goal for Osasuna in injury time, but it only served as a consolation for the Navarrans.

On Saturday, Athletic Bilbao tightened their grip on fourth spot with a narrow 1-0 victory over Getafe.

Markel Susaeta hit the only goal of the game in the 39th minute and although Athletic were easily the better side, they were unable to extend their lead.

The win sees Ernesto Valverde's men move a step closer to Champions League qualification, while Getafe remain dangerously close to the relegation zone.

Real Valladolid and Rayo Vallecano shared a 1-1 draw which did little to help either side in the fight to avoid relegation.

The hosts took an early lead through a Ze Castro own goal, but Alberto Bueno levelled things up with a goal against his former club before half-time.

Granada moved a step closer to securing their top-flight status for another season with a 1-0 win over 10-man Elche at Los Carmenes.

Yacine Brahimi's strike midway through the second half settled the contest in favour of Granada, who made it three home victories on the bounce following their successes over Villarreal and Real Betis.

It could have been a more comfortable victory for Granada in the end but Fran Rico missed from the spot in the 73rd minute after visiting defender Cristian Sapunaru had been sent off for bringing down Youssef El Arabi.

In the day's other game, Espanyol and Levante shared a goalless draw.

On Friday, Ignacio Camacho scored twice in the space of eight minutes to give Malaga a 2-0 win away to Celta Vigo and boost Bernd Schuster's side's chances of survival.

The Andalusians outmuscled their opponents and even managed to endure the final 35 minutes without conceding despite being reduced to 10 men when Duda was shown a straight red card.


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