High-flying Levante hit four past Sporting
Arouna Kone netted a brace as modest Levante consolidated their position among the top four in La Liga with a crushing 4-0 victory over Sporting Gijon on Sunday.
The Valencia-based club are more accustomed to fighting relegation battles but a run of seven straight wins earlier in the season made them surprise league leaders.
The bubble appeared to have burst, though, and Levante came into this game on the back of three defeats on the trot.
However, they responded with a convincing performance against an improving Sporting side who had not lost in five games.
Levante began the match on the front foot but Andre Castro almost put the visitors ahead on 17 minutes when his overhead kick came back off the crossbar.
It was a warning for Levante, and minutes later they responded by taking the lead when Jose Barkero slotted into an open goal following good work from Kone.
Sporting had the opportunities to equalise before the break with David Barral clipping the crossbar and Miguel de las Cuevas heading straight at the keeper from close range, but in the second half Levante ran away with the match.
Valdo Lopes scored straight after the restart and then Kone hit a brace. His first goal came after he was put through from just inside the Sporting half after a defensive mistake and he kept his cool, finishing with aplomb.
The Ivorian then made it four just after the hour, converting after Asier Del Horno's free-kick had been touched onto the bar.
Below Levante, Malaga play Villarreal on Monday and Sevilla are in action later away to Zaragoza.
Elsewhere, a stunning injury-time strike from the half-way line by Inigo Martinez gave Real Sociedad a much needed 3-2 win away to Betis.
The visitors, who were joint bottom of the table going into the match, went two goals clear through Imanol Aguirretxe and Carlos Vela at the start of the second half but substitute Jonathan Pereira appeared to have given Betis a point with two goals in the final ten minutes until Martinez?s wonder goal.
Martinez, 20, had also scored from halfway in the Basque derby defeat to Athletic Bilbao earlier this season.
It was the first defeat of the season for the reigning Spanish and European champions as Getafe frustrated their illustrious visitors, grabbing the three points thanks to a second half header from Juan Valera.
Barcelona's last defeat came on April 30 when they lost 2-1 at Real Sociedad while Saturday's drama added an extra edge to the first Clasico of the league season, scheduled for December 10.
"It's not a terrible defeat and there is a long way still to go in the season," said Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola.
"We need to recover from the effort which we put in which was very good. Next we play against Rayo on Tuesday, then Levante and then Real Madrid.
"We played a good game against a good side. They are a team which have strong players so it was always going to be a difficult game."
Real beat a robust Atletico -- who had taken an early lead through Adrian Lopez -- with the game turning on the first half dismissal of keeper Thibaut Courtois and a penalty converted by Cristiano Ronaldo.
After the break Ronaldo pulled the ball back for Angel Di Maria to put Real ahead and then substitute Gonzalo Higuain rounded the keeper after 64 minutes for the third.
Atletico were reduced to nine men when defender Diego Godin was dismissed for a foul on Higuain and Ronaldo got his second of the match from the resulting penalty with nine minutes left.
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