A review of the weekend’s action in Spain’s Primera Division.
Lionel Messi celebrated his fourth successive Ballon d’Or award by once again inspiring Barcelona to 3-1 victory at Malaga.
Messi won his record-breaking FIFA honour on Monday, taking the honour ahead of Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo, and continued his magnificent scoring run by breaking the deadlock tonight in the 27th minute.
The Argentinian then teed up Cesc Fabregas to put Barcelona two goals to the good after the interval before substitute Thiago made the game safe late on – despite Diego Buonanotte grabbing a consolation in the final minute.
It was ultimately a comfortable evening for the Primera Division leaders, who are 11 points clear at the top.
Atletico Madrid extended their advantage over third-placed Real Madrid to seven points with a comprehensive 2-0 victory over Real Zaragoza at the Vicente Calderon.
After a dominant opening spell, Tiago eventually headed Atleti in front on the half-hour mark as he rose highest to nod home Gabi’s corner.
Radamel Falcao then added the second from the penalty spot seven minutes before the break after Arda Turan was brought down by Cristian Sapunaru.
And despite failing to build on their advantage, the hosts comfortably saw out the second period without any major scares.
Real Betis boosted their European hopes on Sunday as goals from Joel Campbell and Ruben Castro handed them a 2-0 win over Levante.
Campbell opened the scoring after just seven minutes as he swept home Castro’s pass at the end of a flowing counter-attack for just his second Betis goal.
Roger had two decent chances to draw Levante level minutes before and after the break, but he failed to make a proper connection with either attempt and Castro gave the hosts the cushion they needed with a brilliant turn and finish 27 minutes from time.
Relegation-battling Deportivo La Coruna held on for the final 26 minutes with 10 men to earn a 1-1 draw at Real Sociedad.
Depor took a 27th-minute through Luis Pizzi but then found themselves on the back foot after conceding an equaliser to Carlos Vela on the stroke of half-time and then losing defender Evaldo to a red card just after the hour-mark.
However, Sociedad could not make the most of their numerical advantage in the closing stages as Depor made it four points from two games under new coach Domingos Paciencia.
The pressure on Jose Mourinho is set to increase after a poor performance by Real Madrid saw them come away from bottom side Osasuna with just a point on Saturday after a 0-0 draw.
It was a miserable night for Madrid, who were without the suspended Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos, with Kaka sent off 19 minutes after coming on as a substitute while Jose Maria Callejon had a goal disallowed for a borderline offside decision.
Indeed, Osasuna could have won given they had the better of the second half but their final ball continually let them down.
Roberto Soldado took his tally to 17 goals for the season as Valencia continued their improvement since Ernesto Valverde replaced Mauricio Pellegrino as coach with a 2-0 win over Sevilla.
Los Che made it seven wins from eight games under Valverde to move up to seventh a point behind Malaga in the final Champions League spot in fourth. Sevilla remain 12th in the table following the loss.
Soldado netted from close range five minutes into the second half then wrapped up the win in the closing moments with a header from a Pablo Piatti corner to make it 11 La Liga goals for the season.
Patrick Ebert inspired Valladolid with two goals and an assist as they claimed their first win in five games by beating Mallorca 3-1.
The German fired the hosts into the lead with a wonderful strike from 20 yards after 21 minutes but Mallorca were level before half-time as Victor rose to head home Javier Arizmendi’s cross 16 minutes later.
Both sides then had their chances to win the game but Ebert proved the difference in the dying minutes as Oscar Gonzalez turned home his cross three minutes from time and the former Hertha Berlin man then rounded off his afternoon as he was sent through on goal and jinked past Dudu Aouate before slotting into an empty net.
Sergio Garcia’s first-half goal was enough to hand Espanyol a crucial three points as they moved out of the Primera Division relegation zone with a 1-0 win over Celta Vigo.
The former Spanish international gave the hosts the perfect start as he tapped home Christian Stuani’s cross from close range on 23 minutes, and despite having more of the ball after the break, Celta struggled to create clear-cut chances.
Vadim Demidov and Iago Aspas saw headers drift just off target but a fourth defeat in five games means that the Galicians are now only ahead of Espanyol on goal difference.
Rayo Vallecano continued their impressive form with a 2-1 victory over Athletic Bilbao which lifts them level on points with fourth-placed Malaga.
Alhassane Bangoura put Rayo ahead just after half-time and Medina Piti doubled the lead with a contentious penalty in the 65th minute as the visitors took control at San Mames.
Athletic halved the deficit through Mikel San Jose 13 minutes from time to set up a grandstand finish but, despite Rayo losing defender Alejandro Galvez to a red card late on, the Basque side could not get back on terms.