La Liga: Barcelona restores 7-point lead, Atletico moves second

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Barcelona restored its seven-point lead at the top of the La Liga table with a casual 1-0 victory over Real Valladolid. They held the visitors to zero shots on target at the Camp Nou and Lionel Messi did the job on the other end.

Goalless through the majority of the first half, Messi opened the scoring in the 40th minute by slotting home a controversial penalty given after Gerard Pique was awarded a foul inside the area under pressure from Valladolid defender Michel who stepped in the back of Pique’s legs, but still the Barcelona defender crumpled into a heap quite easily. The referee pointed to the spot, and Messi buried his low effort into the bottom-right past a diving Jordi Masip who guessed correctly but could not reach the shot.

Atletico Madrid also found itself on the right end of a 1-0 victory over Rayo Vallecano as Antoine Griezmann put the visitors through in the 74th minute, scoring a deflected strike served up by Alvaro Morata. The game also marked the return of an injured Diego Costa from two months on the sidelines, coming on for the final half-hour. The win pushed Atletico up to second, above Real Madrid by two with Los Blancos set to play tomorrow.

Real Sociedad moved into seventh with a convincing 3-0 win over Leganes behind a brace from Mikel Oyarzabal. The game was scoreless at halftime but the 21-year-old put the hosts up for good in the 50th minute, with Adnan Januzaj delivering a cross that Oyarzabal headed in. He doubled the lead nine minutes later for his eighth league goal of the season, and Willian Jose added the cherry on top 15 minutes from full-time.

Levante hammered 10-man Celta Vigo 4-1, already 2-0 up when the hosts lost Ryad Boudebouz to a straight red card for a truly absurd tackle, massively late and with his studs showing all the way up near the groin of Borja Mayoral. With Celta Vigo reduced to 10, Jose Luis Morales scored his second of the game just after the hour mark, and Mayoral grabbed one late to finish the scoreline. The result is disappointing for Celta Vigo who have slipped into the relegation battle with seven losses and just one win in their last nine matches.