Atletico Madrid returned to the top of the Primera Division standings with a 2-0 victory at Celta Vigo.
After seeing title rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid record big winning margins on Saturday, the pressure was on Diego Simeone’s side to respond and, as they usually have so far this season, they delivered.
Chances were scarce on a heavy Balaidos stadium pitch sodden with rain but Antoine Griezmann made the breakthrough after 49 minutes and substitute Yannick Carrasco made sure of the three points with 10 minutes remaining.
Griezmann sent Luciano Vietto clear on the left four minutes into the second half and raced into the penalty area to sidefoot the Argentine’s low centre past stranded Celta goalkeeper Sergio Alvarez, the France forward’s 10th goal of the campaign.
With fifth-placed Celta pressing for an equalizer, substitute Carrasco, a Belgium international, picked up a loose ball 10 minutes from time and galloped forward before cracking a shot high into the net.
The win moved Atletico two points ahead of second-placed Barcelona, who have a game in hand, and four points clear of city rivals Real. Celta stay fifth in the table.
Atlético, who have conceded a mere eight goals in the league this season, have 44 points from 19 matches, with Barca on 42 from 18 games. Real Madrid are two points further back in third while Celta stay fifth in the table.
Congo forward Bakambu opened the scoring for Villarreal in the 26th minute at the Madrigal when he tapped in Roberto Soldado’s pass and doubled the home side’s lead six minutes into the second half with a curling effort that went in off a post.
Coached by Marcelino Garcia, Villarreal are through to the last 32 of this season’s Europa League and play their first leg at home to Italian side Napoli on Feb. 18.
Sunday’s 2-0 defeat at Real Sociedad means Gary Neville has yet to pick up his first win in the league after three draws and two defeats in five La Liga outings, including a 1-0 reverse at Villarreal, since he took over from Nuno Espirito Santo last month.
A quickfire Jonathas double at the Anoeta stadium in San Sebastian secured victory for Sociedad against Valencia in a match in which both sides wasted a host of chances.The Basque side took the lead in the 79th minute when Jonathas bundled in a deflected Carlos Martinez cross and the Brazilian made it 2-0 three minutes later with a powerful header from another Martinez centre.