Real Madrid and Barcelona both won by the narrowest of margins over the weekend to keep the gap between them to 10 points in Madrid’s favour.
Real Madrid kicked off at 3pm against Rayo Vallecano away from home, knowing a win would pile on the pressure for Barcelona, who were playing in the last fixture of Sunday against the previously unbeaten Atletico Madrid under new manager Diego Simeone.
It took an ostentatious back-heel from Cristiano Ronaldo early in the second half to separate Real and Vallecano as the league leaders ran out 1-0 winners, despite a number of chances for the home side late on; Michu was sent off for Vallecano in the 88th minute for a lunge on Sami Khedira.
Mourinho’s side had done their job and claimed the three points and the onus was all on Barcelona to stay in touch; Leo Messi nearly got the reigning champions off to a perfect start but his 8th minute goal was ruled out and he was booked for using his hand in the build up.
Dani Alves finally did what so many teams have failed to do against Simeone’s Atletico, when he opened the scoring in the 36th minute after he got on the end of Fabregas’ pass and tapped the ball into the back of the net.
The home team restored parity just four minutes into the second half when Falcoa’s brilliant finish beat Victor Valdes at the far post; the Colombian scoring his 16th league goal of the season.
It looked like it would be another disappointing away result for Barca until the 80th minute when Messi’s looping free kick caught the Atletico ‘keeper off guard and sailed into the back of the net.
There was a late shout against Sergio Busquets when the ball struck his raised arm in the box late on and Valdes had to twice make saves in the dying minutes but the 2-1 result for Barcelona leaves the big two as they were at the top of the league.
Valencia lost further ground on Barcelona and Real Madrid with a 2-1 home defeat at the hands of Sevilla, as Tino Costa’s 25th minute strike was cancelled out 10 minutes later by Gary Medel, and Jesus Navas won the game for the away side with 20 minutes remaining.
Fernando Llorente was on the score sheet again on Sunday in Atheltic Bilbao’s 2-2 draw away at Villarreal as two goals from Bilbao in the space of four minutes, scored by Llorente and Markel Susaeta, cancelled out Marcos Senna’s first half goal, only for Nilmar to level the score in the 68th minute.
The result leaves Bilbao in fifth place on goal difference while Villarreal are dangerously close to the relegation zone in 17th place.
Elsewhere on Sunday, Osasuna beat Granada 2-1 at home thanks to goals from Javad Nekounam and Dejan Lekic with Mikel Rico grabbing the goal for the away side, while Real Sociedad beat Mallorca 1-0 at home; Imanol Agirretxe scored the decisive goal for the home team.
On Saturday, Levante reclaimed fourth spot with a 2-1 win away from home over Espanyol; Valdo put the away side up in the first half only for Kalu Uche to equalise with 15 minutes to go, and it looked like it would end 1-1 until Ruben grabbed the winner in the 88th minute for Levante.
A second half flourish of goals helped Malaga beat bottom side Real Zaragoza 5-1 after goals from Malaga’s Sebastien Fernandez and Zaragoza’s Carlos Aranda left the score even at half time; goals from Martin Demichelis, Isco, Salomon Rondon and a Paulo da Silva own goal left the home team comfortable winners and up to sixth in the league.
Elsewhere on Saturday, Real Betis and Getafe played out a 1-1 draw after Jose Dorado’s second half own goal cancelled out Jorge Molina’s opener; Racing Santander drew 1-1 at home with Sporting Gijon as Christian Stuani’s second half penalty saved a point for the home side after David Barral’s first half opener.