A hat-trick from Radamel Falcao helped Atletico Madrid to their first away win of the La Liga season as they beat Real Sociedad 4-0 on Saturday.
Coach Diego Simeone has seen his side pick up seven points from a possible nine since his arrival at the Vicente Calderon and they are now on the fringes of the European places, behind sixth-placed Athletic Bilbao only on goal-difference.
Colombia international Falcao put Atletico ahead after just three minutes from the penalty spot following a handball by Vadim Demidov.
After the break, Adrian Lopez extended the lead at the second attempt after the goalkeeper blocked his header.
Falcao lobbed the goalkeeper after spotting him off his line with eight minutes to go and then fired in his third in the final minute, taking his season’s league tally to 14 goals, just five behind Lionel Messi.
An Alvaro Negredo header before halftime earned 10-man Sevilla a 1-1 draw with Real Betis Balompie in a typically highly-charged derby played at a frenetic pace.
Neither side gave an inch for the full 90 minutes in their first meeting in three years and in the end Sevilla went away the happier after they were forced into some last-ditch defending in the second half.
Negredo saw a shot well saved by goalkeeper Casto Espinosa after just three minutes as Sevilla aimed for a victory in their fight for a place in Europe.
Sevilla had the better of the opening stages and Betis were reduced to counterattacking, but they still took the lead with a well struck free-kick from Benat Etxebarria after 26 minutes.
Sevilla pressed Betis back and Antonio Luna, through on goal, was denied by Casto, before Negredo headed in a Jesus Navas cross after 41 minutes.
In the second half it was all Betis, but they were unable to capitalize on seeing their opponents reduced to 10 men with 20 minutes left when Federico Fazio was given his second yellow card.
“The first half was a shame because we showed that we had come for the win and I think we deserved to go in with a lead at the break. When we had 10 men we found it hard, but managed to get the draw,” Sevilla coach Marcelino Garcia said.
His opposite number at Betis, Pepe Mel, felt the result was fair.
“When we had the extra player, we created a lot of chances, and so Sevilla had the better of the first half and we were on top in the second,” Mel said.
RCD Espanyol moved up to fifth as they stretched their unbeaten run to five games with a 3-0 victory over struggling Granada.
The Catalan side maintained their good form since Christmas with draws against Barcelona and Sevilla, before the win over a sorry Granada, who suffered a third successive defeat.
Espanyol dominated possession in the early stages and after a succession of corners they finally got their reward when Jose Baena headed home a set-piece at the near post.
Dani Benitez had the chance to draw Granada level, but he shot straight at the goalkeeper and then Espanyol doubled their lead when Joan Verdu slotted home from the penalty spot after Vladimir Weiss was felled by Allan Nyom.
Espanyol eased off in the second half, but Granada failed to make the most of their openings and substitute Rui Fonte wrapped up the points for the hosts with 10 minutes to go.
Getafe came from behind to beat Real Racing Club de Santander 2-1, with Jaime Gavilan and Nicolas Miku scoring after Christian Stuani had given the hosts the lead.