Defending champions Barcelona went top of La Liga on Sunday with a labored 1-0 win at rock-bottom Sporting de Gijon, while Gonzalo Higuain blasted a hat-trick in Real Madrid’s 4-0 cruise at RCD Espanyol.
An injury-plagued Barcelona moved into first place with 14 points as Adriano gave them their first away win of the season.
Levante UD are tucked just behind on goal-difference after a 1-0 win against Real Betis Balompie, while Real are a point further back in third spot.
After draws against Real Sociedad and Valencia, Barcelona went into their game at Sporting with a lengthy injury list. Cesc Fabregas and Andres Iniesta were among the midfielders in the treatment room, while neither Carles Puyol nor Gerard Pique started in defense.
Adriano grabbed the only goal after 11 minutes, knocking in a rebound after a Xavi Hernandez shot came back off a post. Eric Abidal went off injured after the break to add to Barca’s defensive worries, but they never looked likely to concede.
“We played a strong Sporting ... There was no space because they closed it down,” Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola said.
Real Madrid have had a stuttering start to the season, but they have bounced back from one point in two games with back-to-back wins.
Cristiano Ronaldo hit the post after just three minutes at Espanyol, but Real went ahead after 17 minutes with Ronaldo setting up Higuain. Kaka should have added to their lead before goalkeeper Iker Casillas also blocked shots from Thievy Bifouma and Sergio Garcia for Espanyol.
Midway through the second half, Higuain hit a powerful drive into the top corner, while Vladimir Weiss missed a good opportunity to reduce the deficit.
Substitute Jose Callejon slotted in a third against his former club and Higuain completed his hat-trick a minute from time as Real condemned Espanyol to their first defeat at home.
Levante had Juanlu Gomez to thank for their 1-0 win over former leaders Betis, their fourth successive victory.
Promoted Betis won their first four games on the trot, but on Sunday they succumbed to their second straight defeat.
Arouna Kone had a couple of excellent chances to score either side of Juanlu’s volley from a Valdo Lopes cross which broke the deadlock after 33 minutes.
Also on Sunday, Atletico Madrid drew 0-0 with Sevilla in a match between two sides who are expected to be fighting for a Champions League place.
The home side had the better openings, but it will be a game remembered more for the number of fouls, with the referee issuing 11 yellow cards.
In the midday kickoff, Real Sociedad’s Inigo Martinez scored from inside his own half in the Basque derby, but Fernando Llorente’s brace made sure Athletic Bilbao earned a 2-1 away win.
Centerback Martinez let fly from over 50m out and caught Gorka Iraizoz off his line. Spain striker Llorente had put Bilbao ahead, before Martinez leveled just past the hour mark. Llorente then struck a superb volley to restore Bilbao’s advantage in the 71st minute.
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