Atletico go top while Ronaldo sees red
Atletico Madrid took full advantage of slip-ups by Barcelona and Real Madrid as they pummeled Real Sociedad 4-0 on Sunday to take sole possession of the lead in La Liga for the first time this season.
David Villa, Diego Costa, Miranda, and the newly arrived Diego scored the goals that put Atletico clear at the top of the table after having shared the lead with Barcelona for much of the campaign.
Atletico honored former player and coach Luis Aragones before the match and fed off the emotion at the Vicente Calderon Stadium to boost its attempt to break the Barcelona-Madrid monopoly with a first championship since 1996. Barcelona lost 3-2 to Valencia on Saturday, and Atletico did not waste the opportunity to go top by itself.
Diego Costa was lively from the start, and the Brazilian-born Spain striker fed Villa inside the box in the 38th minute to finish off a quick break by scoring the opener.
Villa suffered a leg injury moments later and had to be replaced by Raul Garcia.
With the home fans chanting Aragones' name throughout, Atletico came alive in the second half as Garcia found Diego Costa racing free between defenders in the 72nd minute and the forward beat goalkeeper Claudio Bravo with a right-footed shot for his 20th league goal of the season.
Two minutes later, Miranda headed home a corner kick out of Bravo's reach for 3-0 before Diego, who came on in the 58th minute for his first appearance in his return to the club, marked his return to Atletico by dribbling into the box to unleash a rising shot into goal with three minutes remaining.
Atletico hold a three-point advantage over Barcelona and Real Madrid after Athletic Bilbao rallied to draw 1-1 against Real Madrid, who finished without Cristiano Ronaldo after he was red-carded.
Jese lunged to guide Ronaldo's cross into the area beyond goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz for the 65th-minute opener in a game that was dominated by Bilbao up to that point.
Substitute Ibai Gomez's made up for earlier misses by Aritz Aduritz and Ander Herrera when he ran onto a cleared ball outside the area to rip an unstoppable shot past goalkeeper Diego Lopez in the 73rd minute.
Madrid played the final 15 minutes a man down after Ronaldo was sent off for a slight swipe across Carlos Gurpegi's face following a light shove from his opponent.
Gomez nearly scored the winner in the 85th from another volley but Lopez tipped it over as Bilbao improved to 43 points in fourth.
Earlier Sunday, Cristian Herrera's second-half goal gave Elche a 1-0 victory against Almeria to lift the club above their relegation adversary.
Elche improved to 24 points, two more than Almeria who are 17th.
Herrera was well placed to redirect Javi Marquez's shot for the 58th-minute winner at the Manuel Martinez Valero Stadium. So far this season Almeria has conceded a league-high 27 goals in the second half.
Elche finished with 10 men after Damian Suarez was shown a second yellow card in the 90th.
Ruben Castro scored two goals as bottom-side Real Betis beat Espanyol 2-0 to end a four-game losing streak.
Castro was in the right place for Betis in the 72nd minute to fire home Lolo Reyes' initial shot after it came off the post straight to him.
Espanyol forward Christian Stuani wasted a chance in the 82nd minute and Castro put the game away before stoppage time, firing a quick shot between defenders and past goalkeeper Francisco Casilla at the near post.