Atletico win to go top in La Liga as Barcelona draw at Espanyol
Thomas Partey came off the bench to fire Atletico Madrid to a 1-0 win over struggling Levante and take Diego Simeone's side two points clear at the top of La Liga.
The Ghanaian midfielder scored a scrappy winner with nine minutes remaining to ensure his side took advantage of Barcelona's goalless draw at Espanyol, although the reigning champions have a game in hand.
The Vicente Calderon erupted in joy when the 22-year-old poked the ball home, helped by some weak goalkeeping by Levante's Diego Marino, as it looked as if Atletico were about to blow another opportunity to gain ground on Barcelona, having lost 1-0 to Malaga before the Christmas break while Barca were at the Club World Cup.
Levante headed to the Calderon bottom of the table with manager Rubi, their second of the season, under huge pressure having taken just five points from nine matches since succeeding Lucas Alcaraz.
Barcelona struck the woodwork twice but were unable to make a winning start to 2016 as they were held to a goalless draw at local rivals Espanyol.
Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez each hit the frame of the goal for Barca but otherwise the reigning European and Spanish champions produced few moments to savour against their determined rivals as the spoils were shared.
Espanyol struggled to create too many openings themselves but were more than worthy of the draw and become only the fifth team to take points off Barcelona this season in the league.
Saturday's late match in the Primera Division saw Malaga beat Celta Vigo 2-0 with first-half goals from Brazilian forward Charles and defender Raul Albentosa.
Celta Vigo, who could have gone fourth with a win, finished the game with 10 men following the sending off of goalkeeper Ruben Blanco for a foul on Nordin Amrabat.
Substitute Sergio Alvarez, though, saved Amrabat's penalty.