Radamel Falcao scored his 30th goal in all competitions this season to give Atletico Madrid a 1-0 win at Rayo Vallecano de Madrid in Sunday’s Spanish capital derby.
Falcao made the breakthrough in the 64th minute when he latched onto Juanfran Torres’ long pass, dribbled past goalkeeper David Cobeno as he rushed off his line and shot into the open net.
The Colombia striker’s tally of 22 league goals is the third highest in La Liga this season.
“I am happy with my good form because it has contributed to the team’s win,” Falcao said. “It’s a great triumph against rivals who are tough to beat on their home ground.”
Athletic Bilbao and RCD Espanyol also stayed in the hunt for a Europa League spot with home wins.
The victories left Atletico, Bilbao and Espanyol level with Sevilla, who were scheduled to face Getafe yesterday. All are one point behind sixth-placed CA Osasuna after their 1-0 loss at Real Betis Balompie.
While Bilbao edged out RCD Mallorca 1-0 thanks to Fernando Llorente’s early goal, Espanyol thrashed third-placed Valencia 4-0 at the Estadio Cornella-El Prat.
Llorente turned Ibai Gomez’s free-kick through the legs of Mallorca goalkeeper Dudu Aouate in the 13th minute for his 17th league goal this season.
“It was a very important goal and an important victory that will give us a boost,” said Llorente, who has scored 28 goals in all competitions this campaign.
In Barcelona, Sergio Garcia’s crafty dribbling allowed him to pick out Cristian Gomez for Espanyol’s 26th-minute opener, with Joan Verdu unleashing a shot into the top corner four minutes later to make it 2-0.
Valencia goalkeeper Vicente Guaita lost the ball inside his area, allowing Garcia to find substitute Alvaro Vazquez to score in the 57th minute, then Kalu Uche capped the victory by scoring with 10 minutes left.
“We were better than Valencia in every facet of the game,” Espanyol coach Mauricio Pochettino said. “We clearly deserved the win over adversaries who are in third place.”
At La Rosaleda, Malaga looked set to reclaim third place, but had to settle for a 1-1 home draw against 10-man Real Sociedad to sit one point behind Valencia with five matches to play.
Francisco “Isco” Alarcon grabbed Malaga the lead in the 19th minute with a shot that took a deflection off a defender to loop over diving goalkeeper Claudio Bravo.
Sociedad were reduced to 10 men at the end of the first half when defender Mikel Gonzalez received his second booking.
Despite the disadvantage, Xabi Prieto fired home a poor clearance by Malaga’s defense to equalize four minutes into the second half.
Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini downplayed his team’s stumble that let slip a great chance to move closer toward clinching a top-four finish and a Champions League spot for next season.
“If we had won, we wouldn’t have tied it up anyway,” the Chilean manager said. “There are 15 points still in play and a lot of teams left in the fight.”
Lautaro Acosta scored in the fourth minute of stoppage-time to salvage last-placed Real Racing Club de Santander a 1-1 draw at Villarreal, while Real Zaragoza beat Granada 1-0 at home, following midfielder Tomislav Dujmovic’s early strike.
Relegation-threatened Zaragoza’s first win in three weeks lifted them to within four points of Granada and Villarreal, who are both left hovering on the edge of the drop zone.