Atletico close in on title
A reiew of the weekend's action in the Spanish Primera Division.
- Related Content
A solitary goal by Raul Garcia was enough to see off Valencia and nudge Atletico Madrid closer still to the Primera Division title.
The midfielder headed in the crucial goal just moments before half-time and then Atletico dug deep to hold off intermittent swathes of pressure from Valencia to earn their first win at Mestalla in 11 years.
They had to play the last minutes of injury time with 10 men after Juanfran was sent off for a reckless tackle, but it could not prevent them winning the game.
This was widely believed to be Atletico's toughest test remaining and the fact they came through it will only strengthen their confidence of holding off the challenge from Real Madrid, who they lead by three points.
Diego Simeone's side now need just two wins from their next three games to lift their first league title in 18 years.
Barcelona came from two goals down to beat Villarreal 3-2 and stay in the title race on an emotional night for the club.
Playing their first game since the death of former coach Tito Vilanova, who succumbed to throat cancer aged 45 this week, Barca were subdued for much of the first half and trailed to a Ruben Cani goal scored on the stroke of half-time.
Manuel Trigueros then doubled the lead 10 minutes into the second half, but two Villarreal own goals sparked a comeback as Gabriel Paulista and Mateo Musacchio inadvertently brought things level before Lionel Messi struck the killer blow seven minutes from time.
Athletic Bilbao have Champions League football in their sights after winning Sunday's showdown for fourth place with Sevilla.
Markel Susaeta set the hosts on their way by scoring straight from a corner in the fourth minute, and Iker Muniain strengthened their grip on the game with an acrobatic finish early in the second half.
A disappointing evening for Sevilla got even worse when Diogo Figueiras was sent off with 18 minutes remaining, and moments later Ander Herrera then added further shine to a convincing home win by heading in a third, although Kevin Gameiro reduced the deficit with 11 minutes to go.
Sevilla went into the game three points behind Athletic and an away victory would have unseated the Basques in fourth, but now Ernesto Valverde's side enjoy an almost unassailable six-point lead in the position, and a win next week at Rayo Vallecano will secure their place in next season's Champions League.
Almeria gave their survival hopes a big boost on Sunday by ending a run of four straight defeats with a come-from-behind 2-1 Primera Division victory at nine-man Espanyol.
Christian Stuani put the mid-table hosts ahead just before the interval, but his dismissal shortly after the break was the catalyst for the visitors to turn the game on its head.
Fran Velez equalised in the 69th minute and, three minutes later, substitute Suso produced a stunning left-footed free-kick to lift Francisco's side up a place to 18th and within two points of fourth-bottom Getafe with three games remaining.
Javi Lopez was sent off in stoppage time to add to Espanyol's disappointing afternoon.
On Saturday, two goals from Cristiano Ronaldo set Real Madrid on their way to a comprehensive 4-0 victory over Osasuna which moved them back up into second place in the Primera Division.
The Portugal international struck after six minutes and added another early in the second half, with further goals from Sergio Ramos and Daniel Carvajal securing Real's fourth win in a row, which lifts them three points behind leaders and city rivals Atletico Madrid.
Osasuna, however, have won just one of their last 10 league matches and sit three points above the bottom three having played more games than the teams below them.
Getafe survived having Ciprian Marica sent off in the first half to beat Malaga 1-0 and record their first home win in five months, relegating Real Betis in the process.
The Romanian striker provided the assist for the only goal of the game, scored by Adrian Colunga, but then foolishly picked up a second caution before the break.
However, the visitors were unable to make the most of having an extra man and lost that advantage when their defender Marcos Angeleri was sent off with a quarter of an hour left.
Real Sociedad booked their place in the Europa League for next season as they rubbed in the misery for Real Betis.
The match was played out in a subdued atmosphere at the Estadio Manuel Ruiz de Lopera as Betis fell to a 23rd defeat of a miserable season, losing 1-0.
Sociedad were hardly at their best, but did enough to take advantage thanks to Carlos Vela's penalty early in the second half. The win puts them 12 points clear of Valencia, who have four games remaining but lose out to Sociedad on the head-to-head record.
Rayo Vallecano continued their march up the table as a second-half blitz earned them a 3-0 win at 10-man Granada.
The hosts had Yacine Brahimi sent off soon after the break for a second yellow card and moments later Atletico Madrid loanee Saul Niguez broke the deadlock with a 30-yard strike.
Rayo's top scorer Joaquin Larrivey doubled the lead five minutes later to put Rayo on their way a seventh win in 10 games and substitute Seba Fernandez added a third late on, netting for the first time in more than two years.
Rayo moved on to 43 points on the back of the victory and look set for a mid-table finish, but Granada are still far from securing their top-flight status, and left the pitch to boos from their own fans.
On Friday night, Elche moved four points clear of the Primera Division relegation zone, but Angel Rodriguez's 74th-minute strike denied them victory over regional rivals Levante at the Martinez Valero.
Richmond Boakye's strike just after the hour mark put Elche on course for a deserved win, but Levante responded well to going a goal down, with Rodriguez's equaliser ensuring a 1-1 draw.