Atletico Madrid survived the dismissal of Mario Suarez and held on for a 1-0 win at struggling Granada on Sunday that trimmed the gap to La Liga leaders Barcelona back to three points.
Barca’s 3-1 victory at home to Real Zaragoza on Saturday put them six points clear, but Atletico stayed close on their heels thanks to Arda Turan’s goal and despite losing midfielder Suarez to a second yellow card midway through the second half.
Diego Simeone’s side have a club record 31 points after 12 matches, one more than when they last won the title with the combative Argentine in the side in 1996.
Granada midfielder Gabriel Torje hit the post for the hosts in the first half at Estadio Nuevo Los Carmenes, before Atletico grabbed the only goal of an uninspiring game in the 61st minute.
Turkey international midfielder Turan turned the ball home for his fourth goal of the campaign after Koke had crossed from the right.
A first real test of Atletico’s title credentials looms on Dec. 1 with a visit to Real Madrid and a trip to Barca two weeks later.
On Sunday, Simeone paid tribute to his players’ ability to secure three points, despite playing poorly for much of the game.
“The reaction of the team in the second half is the most important thing about today,” he told a press conference. “When a team understands it’s not performing well, that it has to do something, and it reacts like we did today it’s an important step forward.”
Levante UD climbed above Malaga into fourth spot thanks to a 2-0 win at RC Deportivo de La Coruna earlier on Sunday.
Levante’s Pedro Lopez was dismissed in the 54th minute at the Riazor, but the hosts squandered the resulting penalty and later had goalkeeper Daniel Aranzubia sent off.
In-form Nigeria forward Obafemi Martins fired Levante ahead five minutes before halftime, before Lopez was shown a second yellow card for handball in the area shortly after the break.
Riki put his spot-kick over the bar and, after Aranzubia’s second yellow for a foul on Martins, Jose Javier Barkero curled in a second for the visitors with about 10 minutes remaining.
Jose Antonio Reyes scored one of the quickest goals in La Liga history as Sevilla thrashed visiting local rivals Real Betis Balompie 5-1 in Sunday’s Andalusian derby.
The former Arsenal and Real Madrid winger pounced on an error by Betis goalkeeper Adrian and smashed the ball into the top corner after 12 seconds at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, before Federico Fazio made it 2-0 with a fifth-minute header.
Reyes, given a rousing ovation when he was substituted in the second half, made the most of more woeful Betis defending to make it 3-0 in the 33rd minute and then crossed for Fazio to score the fourth two minutes before halftime.
Betis’ Ruben Perez picked up two yellow cards in five minutes midway through the second half, before they pulled a goal back through Ruben Castro with just over 20 minutes left, but Ivan Rakitic hit Sevilla’s fifth in stoppage-time.
In Sunday’s other games, second-half goals from Alexis Ruano and Angel Lafita gave Getafe a 2-1 comeback win at home to Real Valladolid that lifted the Madrid-based club to ninth, while RC Celta de Vigo’s South Korea international striker Park Chu-young earned his side a point with a 56th-minute equalizer in a 1-1 draw at home to RCD Mallorca.