Club Atlético de Madrid responded to FC Barcelona's Catalan derby victory to reclaim the lead in the Spanish title race with a 2-1 triumph at Athletic Club, earned partially by Diego Costa's 25th Liga goal of the season.
Barcelona had temporarily taken over at the top after Lionel Messi's second-half penalty proved sufficient to edge the afternoon derby at RCD Espanyol. However, Diego Simeone's men were up to the challenge of overhauling the defending champions despite the early setback of Iker Muniain's expert finish over Thibaut Courtois at San Mamés. Costa ran through to score with aplomb after José Sosa touched forward an errant Athletic pass on 22 minutes, then Koke headed in the 55th-minute winner from Filipe Luís's cross. Atlético's success over their fourth-placed hosts, who had Aymeric Laporte sent off, lifted them a point clear of the Azulgrana.
Earlier on Saturday it had required a 76th-minute handball decision given against Espanyol's Javi López for Barcelona to break the deadlock at Cornellá-El Prat, Messi dispatching the resulting spot kick past Francisco Casilla. Prior to that Gerardo Martino's Barça – starting the weekend one point behind pacesetters Atlético – had struggled against Javier Aguirre's resolute side. Although Neymar missed an opportunity and Gerard Piqué struck a post, Espanyol were lively themselves through Pizzi and Sergio García, before having cause to regret the penalty award. To worsen matters, home goalkeeper Casilla was red-carded late on for handling a Messi chip outside his area.
In the late kick-off Real Madrid CF fulfilled their part of the bargain, bouncing back from successive defeats by Barcelona and Sevilla FC to demolish Rayo Vallecano de Madrid 5-0 at the Santiago Bernabéu. Cristiano Ronaldo conjured the breakthrough with a 15th-minute strike – goal No28 of the top-flight campaign for the Portuguese, who appeared to be troubled by his left knee – before Daniel Carvajal doubled up on 55 minutes. Gareth Bale then helped himself to two goals in three minutes, the second a super individual effort, prior to substitute Álvaro Morata's climactic fifth. Carlo Ancelotti's team remain third, three points off the summit.
Meanwhile, Sevilla's six-match winning streak (and seven-game unbeaten run) was ended by RC Celta de Vigo, who overcame the UEFA Europa League quarter-finalists thanks to Nolito's 87th-minute penalty in Galicia. If the fifth-ranked Andalusians were left to rue Federico Fazio's handball offence, they could also curse home custodian Yoel for a last-gasp save from Carlos Bacca. Celta climb to 11th in the table.
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|Last updated: 29/03/2014 23:52 CET|
|Real Madrid||5-0||Rayo Vallecano|
Nolito 87 (P)
Messi 77 (P)
|1||Club Atlético de Madrid||31||76|
|3||Real Madrid CF||31||73|
|6||Real Sociedad de Fútbol||30||49|
|11||RC Celta de Vigo||31||36|
|13||Rayo Vallecano de Madrid||31||33|
|19||Real Valladolid CF||30||27|
|20||Real Betis Balompié||30||22|