Valencia had been well worth a point at the Mestalla, more than matching an off-colour Barça until the closing seconds of the game. Lionel Messi was far from his best all night but finally produced a moment of quality as he found a wonderful ball for Neymar, whose header was saved only to be rammed home by Busquets.
It was his first goal of the season but a highly important one that keeps the Catalan side within two points of their rivals. The match ended on a sour note, though, with Messi hit on the head by a bottle thrown from the stands as Barça players celebrated the winner.
Atletico Madrid are two points further back in third but their 2-0 win over Deportivo La Coruna at the Vicente Calderon was overshadowed by violent clashes between fans that led to the death of a Depor fan. The game came close to being called off as a result of the grim backdrop of hooliganism but once it did go ahead, Atleti eased to victory with goals from Saul and Arda Turan. It was a controlled display from Diego Simeone’s men, at odds with the pre-match chaos, and the margin would have been bigger had Koke not hit the post.
Sevilla scored four times in the final 25 minutes to record a morale-boosting 5-1 win over Andalusian rivals Granada at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan. Fourth-placed Sevilla, who had taken just one point from their previous three league games, went ahead through Carlos Bacca’s 24th-minute strike but Granada were level by the break thanks to Youssef El Arabi’s penalty.
That is the way the game stayed until the 66th minute, when Sevilla got their noses back in front through Ever Banega and then further goals from Bacca, Stephane Mbia and Kevin Gameiro completed a one-sided scoreline. It was the ideal way for Sevilla to get back on track following their own 5-1 defeat at the hands of Barcelona last weekend and Thursday’s UEFA Europa League loss at Feyenoord.
Villarreal move up to sixth place in the Primera Division after producing a commanding performance to win 2-0 at bottom-side Cordoba. ALuciano Vietto hit his eighth goal of the season in all competitions to put the visitors in charge after 24 minutes and substitute Ikechukwu Uche put the game out of Cordoba’s reach with 20 minutes to go with a simple finish from a corner.
Marcelino’s side are starting to look like the side that finished in the top six last season again, while things are looking bleaker and bleaker for Miroslav Djukic’s men, who are still without a win since returning to the top flight.