La Liga wrap: Man Utd targets Diego Costa & Koke keep Atletico top

La Liga wrap: Diego Costa and Koke score to help Atlético Madrid seal a 2-1 win at Athletic Bilbao on Saturday night

By Tom Wellman

Costa and Koke keep Atleti top after midweek shift

Diego Costa and Koke scored to bring Atletico Madrid a win at one of La Liga’s most difficult grounds, the San Mames. Athletic Bilbao had lost just once there this season but Atletico were able to get one over Bilbao again and remain top of La Liga. Iker Muniain put Bilbao ahead inside six minutes as it looked like they would finally get one over Madrid, having lost the 2012 Europa League Final and gone out in the Copa del Rey this season to Atletico. However, Costa pulled his side level with a fine finish before Koke prodded home in the second half for an impressive win at a difficult ground. Neither Real Madrid nor Barcelona have won at the San Mames this season, proving what a vital victory that could be for Atletico.

Messi penalty the difference but Espanyol wasteful

For the second week in succession, Lionel Messi kept a cool head to steer Barcelona to victory from the penalty spot. His second-half spot kick was the difference between Barca and city rivals Espanyol in a game of few chances. Espanyol could have put another dent in Barcelona’s title challenge, and perhaps should have done but Pizzi wasted two glorious openings. Instead Messi converted and kept Barcelona within a point of Atletico in second place. Coincidentally, the two teams will meet this week in the Champions League quarter-finals, although Tata Martino did not feel the need to rest anyone at the weekend. Both Messi and Neymar started the game alongside Xavi, Cesc Fabregas and a first-choice defence.

Bale double sees off Rayo Vallecano but Ronaldo booed by fans

Gareth Bale scored a brace as Real Madrid eased past Rayo Vallecano 5-0 at the Bernabeu, but the forward’s strike partner Cristiano Ronaldo was the subject of animosity from the fans. The Portuguese striker was jeered when on the ball during the rain-soaked win despite opening the scoring with his 44th goal of the season. Manager Carlo Ancelotti could provide no possible reason as to why the fans acted in this way, even after two defeats in a week saw them drop from first to third. He was impressed with Bale however, who tapped home Angel Di Maria’s cross before going on one of his trademark runs through the Rayo defence to score. Alvaro Morata grabbed another goal from the bench and Dani Carvajal scored a rare goal – his first for the club – as Real prepare to get revenge over Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League this week.

Sevilla’s Champions League charge halted by Celta

Five straight wins preceded Sevilla’s incredible win over Real Madrid in midweek as they went in search of a seventh against Celta Vigo on Saturday. Celta had faced Barcelona on the same night, losing comfortably in a timid display at the Nou Camp, but shocked their opponents with a late 1-0 win at Balaidos. Nolito’s penalty four minutes from the end gave Celta the victory to slow Sevilla’s hopes of catching Athletic Bilbao in fourth place. Federico Fazio was adjudged to have handled the ball inside the area as Sevilla tried desperately to see the game out, suffering from the epic shift put in against Madrid on Wednesday. The former Benfica and Barcelona winger smashed home the spot kick to ward off relegation fears for the near future and harm Sevilla’s chances of qualifying for the Champions League.

Getafe beat Valencia to end 15 game winless run

Getafe were in sixth the last time they won a game but were able to climb out of the relegation zone with a 3-1 victory at the Mestalla. They began woefully though, looking as though the run had sapped every drop of confidence from the team, and fell behind after just four minutes to Vargas’ header. However, Getafe responded 20 minutes later through Ángel Lafita, and then Ciprian Marica headed in immediately afterwards. As the game continued and Valencia brought on their bigger players, it looked as though Getafe might actually hold on to seal their first win since November, and a first for new manager Cosmin Contra. The Romanian, taking charge of his fourth game, got swept up in the emotion late on after Pedro Leon sealed the win, sparking mass celebrations on the bench and some tempers to flare on the pitch. Both Contra and Valencia’s Mathieu were dismissed as the emotion from a long overdue victory spilled over.

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