La Liga Matchday 16 - Derby victory helps Barcelona close Real Madrid's lead

With Real Madrid away in Japan as they won the Club World Cup, Barcelona had the opportunity to cut Real’s lead to just three points temporarily. To do so they had to emerge victorious from a Catalan derby against an Espanyol side who had conceded just once in their last six games. It took Luis Suarez just 18 minutes to break the deadlock, and when goalkeeper Diego Lopez was forced off with an injury, the floodgates opened. Suarez added a second before Jordi Alba found the back of the net and a fine Lionel Messi stike made up for the consolation effort scored for the Pericos by David Lopez.

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Perhaps one of the most important results of the weekend was at the Vicent Calderon, where Atletico Madrid kept hold of sixth place and kept hopes of breaking back into the top four alive as they saw off Las Palmas by a single goal. Saul scored the winning goal on the hour mark, with his two brothers also scoring for their teams across Spain, and eased the pressure on Diego Simeone over the winter break and leaving them just one point behind the top four.

Sevilla are the sid who have taken their place as the third best team in Spain, but the Andalucian team raced to a four goal lead by half-time in former Tottenham boss Juande Ramos’ final game in charge of Malaga. Luciano Vietto, Wissam Ben Yeder and Vitolo were all on the score sheet, but ex-Barcelona striker Sandro brought one back for Malaga after the break with Adil Rami sent off for Jorge Sampaoli’s team.

In fourth, Villarreal protected their lead by extending Sporting Gijon’s poor run to just one win in 12 matches as they fell to home defeat to the Yellow Submarine. Fran Escriba’s team looked comfortable throughout with a memorable strike from ex-Chelsea loanee Alexander Pato sealing the three points in the second half in a 3-1 win at the Molinon.

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It’s not just Atleti applying the pressure on Villarreal though as Real Sociedad made it six wins from eight as they inflicted a 2-0 defeat upon Granada who were enjoying their best run of the season off the back of seven consecutive points in La Liga, having been on just two points before the last three fixtures. Two second half strikes made the difference for la Real and ensured that they maintain their narrow lead over Atletico Madrid for now.

Athletic Bilbao aren’t far behind and they ensured that they kept the pressure up on all of the top six with a valuable 2-1 win over a Celta Vigo side who continue to disappoint after a superb season last campaign. Iago Aspas gave Celta the lead with his ninth goal in 14 games but Facundo Roncaglia then conceded a penalty and was sent off in a pivotal moment. Aritz Aduriz equalised from 12 yards and it was unlikely hero Mikel San Jose found a 93rd minute winner to give the Basque side the victory.

At the bottom of the table, Deportivo A Coruna secured a vital three points over bottom side Osasuna who continue to search for their second win of the season. Florin Andone and ex-Liverpool man Ryan Babel gave the Galician side an early lead and they held on to see out an impressive 2-0 win to climb to 15th and four points above the relegation zone.

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That saw Leganes drop to 16th as they failed to see out their lead, after Manuel Guerrero’s early stike was followed minutes later by a sending off Iago Herrerin. Eibar had ex-Manchester United winger Bebe to thank when he brought them back into the game with 14 minutes left on the clock but their late onslaught failed to find a winner.

Real Betis are also still in danger of being sucked into a relegation fight despite their uplift in form since the departure of Gus Poyet as yet another Friday night fixture saw them beaten by a Deyverson strike which gave Alaves a crucial win to cement their place in midtable at the halfway point of the season.

Featured Image: All rights reserved by Habergaraj.

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