La Liga round-up: Barcelona and Real Madrid get routine wins ahead of El Clasico
Madrid, March 16 (IANS) Real Madrid ended their disappointing and worrying run of recent form with a 2-0 home win against Levante on Sunday night to remain one point behind FC Barcelona a week before they visit Camp Nou.
Keylor Navas played in goal instead of Iker Casillas but it was hard to judge the Costa Rican's display given that Levante barely put up a fight and failed to produce a dangerous shot on target, reports Xinhua.
Gareth Bale scored both of Madrid's goals before half-time on a night where the other good news was the return of Sergio Ramos and 77 minutes played by Luka Modric. Levante didn't even have a player booked, showing their level of commitment.
FC Barcelona had moved four points clear at the top of La Liga on Saturday night, thanks to a disciplined 2-0 win away at Eibar. Two goals from Lionel Messi, his 31st and 32nd of the season, were enough to give Barcelona three points.
The first half saw Barcelona control most of the ball but neither side managed a shot on target until the half hour when Messi's shot deflected to hit Eibar defender Borja Ekiza on the arm and the Barcelona striker scored from the spot. He then scored a diving header 10 minutes into the second half to double the lead and assure the points.
The battle for third and fourth place in the table also heated up over the past 24 hours as Valencia won 2-0 at home to Deportivo la Coruna to move third ahead of Atletico Madrid, who could only draw 0-0 away to Espanyol.
Atletico had the best of the few chances, despite playing with a player less for three quarters of the game after Joao Miranda was sent off for leading with his elbow in a jump. But the draw means their slim title chances have now disappeared for this season.
Sevilla also kept in the race for the Champions League with a 3-0 win over Elche thanks to two goals from Carlos Bacca and one from Kevin Gameiro in what was a comfortable win.
Sixth place Villarreal lost ground as they drew 0-0 away to relegation threatened Almeria, who should have won but for a dreadful miss from striker Tomer Hemed, who blazed over an open goal from five yards out.
Malaga meanwhile inflicted an eighth successive defeat on bottom of the table Cordoba with goals from Juanmi and Nordin Amrabat.
Saturday saw how goals from Aritz Aduriz and Mikel San Jose gave Athletic Club Bilbao their fourth consecutive triumph as they won 2-1 away to Celta Vigo while Rayo Vallecano bounced back from last weekend's 1-6 thrashing to Barcelona with a 3-1 home win against struggling Granada.
Granada had opened the scoring through Jhon Cordoba but two more goals from Alberto Bueno helped overturn the score and lift Rayo clear of the relegation fight.