La Liga Wrap: Atletico win, Valencia ease pressure
Following Barcelona's 1-0 win over city rivals Espanyol on Friday, Atletico needed a victory to move back to a point behind the champions, and goals from strikers David Villa and Diego Costa were enough to ensure their 11th success from 12 matches this term.
A positive result for Diego Simeone's men never looked in doubt, as they dominated the game at the Vicente Calderon, registering 11 more shots on goal than their visitors.
Former Barca and Valencia forward Villa broke the deadlock in the 33 minutes as he volleyed past Gorka Iraizoz after Juanfran's right-wing cross was only partially cleared.
And four minutes before the break, Costa doubled their lead with his 13th La Liga goal of the season when he ran on to a throughball, cut inside Erik Moran - who was later sent off - and slotted past Iraizoz. The strike moves him level with Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo at the top of the scoring charts.
In the day's early kick-off, Valencia picked up a narrow 1-0 win at Getafe to ease the increasing pressure on coach Miroslav Djukic.
The Serbian only took over at the club during the close-season, but a run of three consecutive La Liga defeats saw criticism from the Mestalla faithful return following a poor start to the campaign.
Djukic had Dorlan Pabon to thank for the three points as the Colombian forward blasted a pin-point strike into the top corner from around 30 yards out in the 41st minute.
Elsewhere, Malaga moved four points ahead of the relegation zone after a 3-2 triumph over Real Betis at La Rosaleda, with Pepe Mel's team remaining in the bottom three.
The hosts opened the scoring after 13 minutes as Roque Santa Cruz nodded past Stephan Anderson in the Betis goal, but Joan Verdu equalised from a free-kick before the break.
Eliseu restored Malaga's lead just after the hour mark, but Jordi Figueras hit back almost immediately, only for Samu to hit the winner for Bernd Schuster's men in the 93rd minute.
A half-time blackout threatened Levante's home match against Granada and, although power was eventually restored, the visitors provided the only spark of the second half.
In the first period, Nabil El Zhar won himself a penalty, but his effort from the spot was poor and Roberto in the Granada goal saved with ease, before Lucas Alcaraz's men made them pay in second-half stoppage time.
The low-key match looked destined to end 0-0, but Piti stepped up and fired a 91st minute free-kick into the top corner from distance, moving Granada up to 11th.