Atletico Madrid reclaimed the La Liga lead with a 2-0 win over Celta Vigo on Sunday, as manager Diego Simeone's men put together another ruthless performance in Week 19.
The visitors moved the ball at speed and played lockdown defence, and goals from Antoine Griezmann and Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco in the second half were enough to secure the three points.
Elsewhere, Valencia suffered yet another disappointing loss, this time against Real Sociedad, while Villarreal continued their fine run with a 2-0 win over Sporting Gijon. Here's a look at Sunday's results:
|Celta Vigo||0-2||Atletico Madrid|
The current La Liga standings:
|9||Deportivo La Coruna||19||6||9||4||26||23||+3||27|
Atletico looked every bit as ruthless as they have all season in the win over Celta Vigo, playing superb defence and making the most of their chances. Griezmann and Luciano Dario Vietto tortured the Galician defence with their movement throughout the match, and it didn't come as a huge surprise when the two combined for the first goal.
The Frenchman set it up with a lovely pass for Vietto, who returned the favour, handing Griezmann an easy tap-in. In just two passes, Atletico tore through the entire back line, per ESPN FC's Dermot Corrigan:
Griezmann and Vietto one-two there pretty special to cut open whole defence in just two passes.— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) January 10, 2016
Ferreira-Carrasco doubled their lead with a surging run, taking on two Celta players before blasting the ball past goaltender Sergio Alvarez. The Belgian has been one of La Liga's top breakout players of the year, and while he started this match on the bench, his energy as a substitute handed a whole new dynamic to the side.
The win sees Atletico reclaim the lead from Barcelona, with the two heavyweights set to meet at the end of January.
Gary Neville's disappointing start as manager of Valencia continued with a 2-0 loss against Real Sociedad at the Anoeta, where Jonathas scored twice inside the last 15 minutes to hand the Basques a much-needed win.
Per Daniel Storey of Football365, Valencia's run is historically bad:
Valencia are now on their longest run without a league win in 8 years. Six of those eight games were since Gary Neville was appointed.— Daniel Storey (@danielstorey85) January 10, 2016
Jaume Domenech handed Jonathas the first goal with a blunder, an unfortunate error in what had been a fine performance from the goalkeeper until that point. La Real are enduring a nightmare season, but the Basques have looked much improved of late and put together a fine showing Sunday.
Jonathas doubled the lead three minutes later with a powerful header, keeping Neville winless in his short La Liga career in the process.
Per Valencia's official website, he knows his team has to improve fast:
We have played below the expectations we have set ourselves. We have to snap out of it and start winning. I want to play with his players to get better together. We are going to work hard to rectify this as soon as possible. We have to pass the ball well, have an accurate pace and defend, we have given the ball away many times. I can only ask patients to the fans. The dressing room is disappointed, I am, but tomorrow it is a fresh start and we have to get the fans to believe.
Villarreal's excellent run continued with a 2-0 win over Sporting Gijon, with Cedric Bakambu scoring both goals. The French forward struck halfway through the first half and doubled his tally just a few minutes after the break.
With the win, the Yellow Submarine remain just three points behind Barcelona and one point behind Real Madrid. Barring a meltdown, Villarreal are likely to secure Spain's fourth Champions League ticket, which would be some accomplishment for the club.
Perhaps even more impressive than Villarreal's stunning start to the season, Eibar continue to string together results, and Borja Baston's penalty goal 15 minutes before the final whistles ensured the Basques got a 2-1 win over Espanyol.
BeIN Sports USA's David Cartlidge praised the management for the wonderful job they've done assembling the squad:
Another impressive performance, and win, for Eibar. Coaching there deserves praise of course, but their signings have been another level.— David Cartlidge (@davidjaca) January 10, 2016
Malaga only managed a disappointing 1-1 draw at Las Palmas, a result that doesn't really do either club any good. The hosts now sit three points above the relegation zone, while Malaga continue to lose ground in the race for the European tickets.