A review of the weekend’s action in the Spanish Primera Division.
Atletico Madrid took all Real Madrid had to throw at them as they won 2-1 at the Bernabeu on Saturday night.
Last season’s surprise champions weathered a first-half storm after Cristiano Ronaldo’s penalty cancelled out Tiago’s opener, and their resolve was worth it as they won the contest with a winner in the 76th minute.
Substitute Arda Turan got the goal, but all their players were heroes as budgets were again made a mockery of as Diego Simeone’s men won across the city for the second time in two seasons.
Real’s Galacticos had no answer to Atleti’s steel and this success comes after the Red and Whites won the Super Cup against the European champions earlier this month.
Two stunning pieces of skill by Lionel Messi and two languid finishes from substitute Neymar saw Barcelona beat a resilient Athletic Bilbao side 2-0 to pick up a third consecutive win and stay top.
Ernesto Valverde’s side had produced a disciplined performance at the Nou Camp and looked to be heading for a point until a moment of brilliance from Messi released Neymar, who broke the deadlock with nine minutes remaining.
The Argentinian and Brazilian then combined again for the second goal, Messi cutting the ball back for his team-mate to strike low into the bottom corner and deliver the final blow to Athletic.
Although playing at home, Barcelona wore their away kit bearing the ‘senyera’, the Catalan national flag, to mark Catalan independence day two days earlier, while Athletic wore their green away shirt, reflecting the colours of the Basque national flag.
In Saturday’s late kick-off, Real Sociedad pulled off an another extraordinary comeback to salvage a point from a 2-2 draw at Celta Vigo, despite trailing the Galicians by two goals with little more than 20 minutes remaining.
In their next league game after their thrilling 4-2 win over Real Madrid, Jagoba Arrasate’s side gave themselves a mountain to climb at Balaidos, going down to a first half header from the in-form Fabian Orellana and then an unorthodox finish from Joaquin Larrivey at the start of the second period.
However, Imanol Agirretxe reduced the deficit in the 69th minute and a late onslaught from the Basques followed, with Jonny Castro diverting the ball into his own net in injury time to gift a point to the visitors.
Eduardo Berrizo’s side are still unbeaten after three Primera Division games but will be kicking themselves after conceding two sloppy goals so late in the game, while La Real again demonstrated their ability to resurrect a seemingly lost cause.
Struggling Levante frustrated Malaga in a goalless draw at La Rosaleda.
Levante came into the match having lost both of their opening games against Villarreal and Athletic Bilbao respectively, conceding a total of five goals, leaving coach Jose Luis Mendilibar under pressure.
However, defensive frailties in those encounters failed to be repeated on Saturday as Malaga failed to really test visiting stopper Jesus Fernandez.
Almeria and Cordoba are both still waiting for their first wins of the new season after drawing 1-1 at the Estadio de los Juegos Mediterraneos on Friday.
Edgar gave Almeria a 12th-minute lead but Federico Cartabia equalised soon after for newly-promoted Cordoba and that proved to be the end of the scoring – although both sides went close to second-half winners.
Fernando Soriano glanced a header against the Cordoba crossbar with 16 minutes to go and then, in the final of four minutes of stoppage time, visiting substitute Nabil Ghilas broke through only to be denied by a fine save from Ruben Martinez.