Atletico Madrid takes sole possession of 1st: La Liga
Pummels Real Sociedad 4-0 Sunday
Atletico Madrid took full advantage of Barcelona's rare slip-up as it pummeled Real Sociedad 4-0 on Sunday to take sole possession of the lead in the Spanish league 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 standings, having shared the lead with Barcelona for much of the campaign.
Atletico holds a three point advantage over Barcelona and Real Madrid after Athletic Bilbao rallied to draw 1-1 against Madrid, which finished without Cristiano Ronaldo after he was red carded.
Substitute Ibai Gomez's volley cancelled out Jese Rodriguez's opener for Madrid, which 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.
Atletico honoured 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 sustained 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 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 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.
"This is something nice for the players, who have made such effort and go into every single game with the same intensity and work ethic," Atletico coach Diego Simeone said. "Luis would appreciate the team's courage, since he was a courageous type with character, just like this team."
Atletico leads with 57 points, while Barcelona and Madrid share 54 points.
Earlier Sunday, Cristian Herrera's second-half goal gave Elche a 1-0 victory against Almeria to lift the club above its relegation adversary, while Ruben Castro scored two goals as last-placed Real Betis beat Espanyol 2-0 to end a four-game losing streak.
Elche improved to 24 points, two more than Almeria which is 17th. Valladolid is 18th with 20, Rayo Vallecano has 17 and Betis 14.
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.
Castro was also in the right place for Betis in the 72nd 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 and Castro put the game away before stoppage time, firing a quick shot between defenders and past goalkeeper Francisco Casilla at the near post.
All games held a minute's silence in honour of Aragones, the former Spain coach who died on Saturday at age 75.