Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi was the star of the LaLiga weekend with a spectacular free-kick strike as leaders Barcelona beat second placed Atlético Madrid 1-0 to go eight points clear at the top.

Messi’s 24th LaLiga goal of the season was his third direct free kick in his last three games, and both teams’ coaches Diego Simeone and Ernesto Valverde said afterwards at the Camp Nou on Sunday afternoon that the Argentine had been the difference between the teams.

Third placed Real Madrid eased to a straightforward 3-1 win against Getafe at the Bernabeu on Saturday evening. Gareth Bale opened the scoring in his British record 117th LaLiga appearance, with Cristiano Ronaldo’s double taking the Portuguese to 30 goals in just 286 LaLiga games.

Valencia remain fourth after goals from Rodrigo and Simone Zaza saw Los Che beat Real Betis 2-0 at Mestalla, although Sevilla kept up the pressure with their 2-0 home win over Athletic Bilbao, as Franco Vazquez assisted the first for Luis Muriel and scored the second himself.

Primera Division debutants Girona made sure of safety already with a 2-0 win at Villarreal, with the Catalans now sitting seventh and serious contenders for a Europa League qualification spot. Real Sociedad’s Mexico international Hector Moreno scored his first goal for his new club in their 2-1 Basque derby victory at home to Alavés.

Levante’s rough luck continued as they conceded a late equaliser at home to Espanyol. The Valencia-based club announced on Sunday that youth team coach Paco Lopez was being promoted to replace Juan Ramon Lopez Muniz as senior boss until the end of the season.

Elsewhere in the relegation battle there was drama at Riazor – with Japan international Takashi Inui opening the scoring, home goalkeeper Maksym Koval sent off, and visiting goalkeeper Marko Dmitrovic scoring an own-goal, all within the first 38 minutes of a 1-1 draw.

Bottom team Malaga lost 2-0 at Leganes, with the Boquerones’ former forward and Morocco international Nordin Amrabat among the scorers.