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La Liga giants all win as title race gains heat

ESPN staff
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Diego Costa helped Atletico Madrid back to the top of La Liga © Getty Images
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Atletico Madrid remained top of the Primera Division after coming from a goal behind to pull off a hard-fought 2-1 win at Athletic Bilbao, who finished the game with 10 men when Aymeric Laporte was sent off late on.

Iker Muniain put the Basques ahead with just five minutes played but Diego Costa pulled Diego Simeone's side level midway through the first half, and Koke dived in to head in the winner in the second half, allowing Atletico to preserve their one-point lead over Barcelona at the top of the table.

The result means that Atletico become just the second team to do the double on Athletic, as well as being responsible for two of the three times the Basques have lost at their new stadium San Mames Barria, adding to their 2-1 win in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals in January.

Gareth Bale scored twice for Real Madrid © Getty Images
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But although it ended well for Atletico, they were made to sweat for the three points, surviving two penalty scares in the second half, and once again were grateful to goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois for coming to their rescue.

Real Madrid netted five goals in a big 5-0 win over Rayo to get back to winning ways and close their gap to three points again, two behind second placed Barcelona.

Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring in the first half, then four goals followed in the second with Gareth Bale getting on the scoresheet twice alongside Daniel Carvajal and Alvaro Morata.

Lionel Messi scored his third penalty in six days to give Barcelona a 1-0 win at local rivals Espanyol and boost their chances of retaining the Primera Division title.

With 14 minutes remaining of a difficult afternoon for Gerardo Martino's side, the prolific Argentina forward calmly sent his spot-kick the other side of Espanyol goalkeeper Kiko Casilla, who was then sent off for handling another shot from Messi outside his area.

Defender Javi Lopez, who had given away the penalty for handball, went in goal for the remaining eight minutes, but Barca were unable to take further advantage.

A late penalty from Nolito earned Celta Vigo a 1-0 victory over Sevilla which ended the visitors' six-match winning run in the league.

Unai Emery's side were on a high following a midweek success over leaders Real Madrid, but Celta ended that euphoria with the successful spot-kick three minutes from time.

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