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Real Madrid Remain Five Points Clear At The Top Of La Liga

Real Madrid bounced back from their midweek Copa del Rey defeat to Barcelona with a comeback 4-1 victory over 10-man Athletic Bilbao that kept them five points clear at the top of the Primera Division.

In-form Athletic had threatened to add to Madrid’s misery following their 2-1 home loss to Barca in the first leg of their cup quarter-final tie when Fernando Llorente gave them an early lead. However, Jose Mourinho’s men drew level soon after through Marcelo before two second-half penalties from Cristiano Ronaldo and a late goal from Jose Callejon helped Madrid stay clear at the summit.

Lionel Messi scored his fifth hat-trick of the season as Barcelona posted a comfortable 4-1 victory at Malaga. Victor Valdes made three fine saves to prevent Isco giving the hosts the lead early on, but Barca took control just after the half-hour mark as Messi gave Willy Caballero no chance with a powerful header from Adriano’s cross.

And the visitors made sure of the three points with two quickfire goals early in the second half as Alexis Sanchez fired home from close range before Messi got his second of the day with a wonderful run and finish. Messi completed his hat-trick on 81 minutes as he again left the Malaga defence in his wake before slipping the ball past Caballero from a narrow angle, but Salomon Rondon did get a consolation for the hosts five minutes later with a neat finish after Valdes had parried Recio’s effort.

Fourth-placed Levante’s poor recent run continued as they were held to a dour 0-0 home draw by bottom club Real Zaragoza at the Ciutat de Valencia. In a match that saw precious little goalmouth action, Zaragoza striker Helder Postiga might have claimed only a third Primera Division win of the season for his side with a late opening, but he could not take advantage.

At the other end depleted Levante barely threatened and, after their stunning run of seven successive wins earlier this season, they have now picked up only eight points from a possible 30.

Valencia’s disappointing start to 2012 continued as they were held to a 1-1 draw at Osasuna in the Primera Division on Sunday. Having taken one point from matches against Villarreal and Real Sociedad since the winter break, Los Che needed a win to have any chance of keeping in touch with the Primera Division’s leading pair, Real Madrid and Barcelona. They appeared to be on their way when Roberto Soldado gave them a scarcely deserved lead in the 85th minute, but Valencia self-destructed in stoppage time as David Albelda was sent off and Lolo levelled from the resulting free-kick.

Ivan Ramis’ second-half header earned Real Mallorca a hard-fought 1-0 Primera Division win at Rayo Vallecano. Mallorca enjoyed the bulk of possession in the first period, but it was the hosts who created the better chances – Jose Manuel Casado firing wide after a good run in behind the Mallorca defence and then hitting the bar with a cross that deceived Dudu Aouate.

The visitors went in front 12 minutes into the second half, though, as Ramis rose to power home Chori Castro’s free-kick. Rayo threw players forward in search of an equaliser but it was Mallorca who should have scored again late on as Victor Casadesus ran through on goal only to flash a shot over the bar.

On Saturday, Radamel Falcao scored a hat-trick as Atletico Madrid claimed their first league away win of the season with a stunning 4-0 triumph at Real Sociedad. The victory ended Atletico’s miserable away run and continued the impressive start made under new coach Diego Simeone, whose first three games in charge have now yielded seven points, with seven goals scored and none conceded.

Sociedad were also in good league form coming into the game having gone seven matches unbeaten to climb away from the relegation zone, but they were swept aside by Atletico. Falcao was again the star of the show as he took his league tally to 14 goal for the season – almost half Atletico’s overall tally.

Espanyol extended their unbeaten run to five league games and moved up into fifth place in the table thanks to a comfortable 3-0 win over Granada.

In the Seville derby, Sevilla survived the second-half dismissal of defender Federico Fazio to claim a 1-1 draw against Real Betis at the Estadio Manuel Ruiz de Lopera. Exteberria Benat’s free-kick put Betis in front but Alvaro Negredo equalised before half-time.

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