Madrid: Espanyol put their European ambitions back on track with a feast of attacking football in a 4-2 victory over a slack Atletico Madrid in La Liga on Sunday.
Espanyol had only scored three goals in their last five games, but on Sunday they were 2-0 ahead after only seven minutes.
Atletico goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois gave the ball away to Koffi Romaric, who found Juan Verdu, and his shot from distance caught the Belgian shot stopper off guard for the opener.
A clinical finish from Verdu followed from the edge of the area and then Romaric added a third after a one-two with Sergio Garcia.
Espanyol were walking through the Atletico defence at ease and Thievy Bifouma should have headed in another before Radamel Falcao reduced the arrears with a header after 32 minutes.
After the break Sergio Garcia missed a couple of good openings before slotting the fourth under the keeper after embarrassingly little effort to stop him from the Atletico backline.
Arda Turan pulled a goal back with eight minutes to go.
Athletic Bilbao are a point behind Espanyol after an injury-time goal from Alvaro Gonzalez earned Racing Santander a 1-1 draw at San Mames, with Jon Aurtenetxe having put the home side ahead.
Substitute Juanmi Jimenez rescued a point for Malaga who maintained their sixth place with a 1-1 draw against Osasuna.
Malaga have played some attractive football this season but struggled to convert their good play into results and that was the case also against Osasuna.
Having squandered three points in a defeat by Real Sociedad last weekend, when they conceded two late goals, they were heading the same way against Osasuna.
Malaga bossed the match from beginning to end with Santi Cazorla missing their first chance in the first minute.
Further opportunities came and they went closest to scoring when a Nacho Monreal volley came back off the woodwork.
Osasuna then took the lead after 33 minutes through Ibrahima Balde from close range after Malaga failed to clear a corner.
Osasuna were set to leapfrog Malaga into sixth place until Juanmi side-footed home a Sergio Sanchez cross after 69 minutes.
While Barcelona’s 3-1 victory over Real Madrid has overshadowed the La Liga action this weekend there were some important matches which affected the bottom of the table on Sunday.
Zaragoza, at the foot of the table, slumped to a 1-0 defeat at home to Mallorca with Victor Casadesus scoring the only goal of the game before half time.
Sporting Gijon moved closer to safety with a 3-1 win over a poor Rayo Vallecano who were on the edge of the European places recently, but have now lost their last four games.
David Barral put Sporting ahead before a double from Nacho Novo made it 3-0. Miguel Michu grabbed a consolation for Racing in the final minute.
Villarreal avoided dropping into the drop zone thanks to an equaliser from Marco Ruben with 20 minutes to go which gave them a 1-1 draw with Real Sociedad.