When we look back at the 2016-17 La Liga title race we might point to 26 Feb as the date when Real Madrid showed what champions are made off.
For a few hours Barcelona were back on top of the table having beaten Atletico Madrid 2-1 at the Vicente Calderón Stadium and Zinedine Zidane’s side were facing the real prospect of suffering two defeats in five days when Villarreal went 2-0 up before the hour through Manu Trigueros and Cedric Bakambu.
But Gareth Bale, starting for the first time since November, reduced the deficit, Cristiano Ronaldo converted a controversially awarded penalty to level and substitute Alvaro Morata nodded in a 83rd-minute winner as Real’s relentless pressure eventually told.
The result mean that Real maintained the one-point cushion they held over Barca heading into the day, whilst also holding a game in hand on their great rivals.
Before the Real Madrid comeback it looked like Lionel Messi would once again grab the headlines as his last-minute goal earned Barcelona a 2-1 victory against Atletico Madrid.
Barca fell behind Sevilla on Saturday after Jorge Sampaoli’s side came from behind to beat local rivals Real Betis. And they looked to be staying there until Messi struck in the 86th minute to earn all three points.
Espanyol moved to eighth place, while Osasuna stayed last as their winless streak extended to 16 games. The promoted club’s only victory so far was at Eibar in October.
Granada also fell behind at Athletic Bilbao when Markel Susaeta found the net in just the 11th minute, though the lead would last only three minutes as Mehdi Carcela-Gonzalez swiftly levelled.
Inigo Lekue restored the home side’s lead prior to the interval and a third goal from Mikel San Jose with 21 minutes remaining made it more comfortable for Athletic in a 3-1 win.
Sporting Gijon, the third of the teams currently occupying the relegation zone, were at least able to claw closer to safety with a point from a 1-1 draw with Celta Vigo.
They were on course for all three points, which would have moved them level with Deportivo, as Moi Gomez’s early second-half penalty put them into the lead.
Yet teenager Jorge Mere was dismissed with 16 minutes remaining and Iago Aspas made the 10 men pay soon after with his 19th goal of the season in all competitions.