Levante go third against nine-man Espanyol
Levante defeated nine-man Espanyol 3-1 on Sunday to go third in La Liga, a third win in three matches to illustrate their victory over Real Madrid last weekend was no fluke.
The modest Valencia-based club have 11 points, the same as second-placed Barcelona, and trail the champions only on goal difference after a week which also saw them beat Real 1-0 last Sunday and Rayo Vallecano 2-1 in midweek.
They are just one point behind leaders Real Betis, the only side with a 100 percent record, who play at Getafe on Monday.
Levante went ahead in the 12th minute with the first of Ruben Suarez's two penalties, after Rui Fonte had tripped Juanlu Gomez.
Suarez scored again from the spot on 58 minutes after Jordi Amat had tripped him when he had a clear chance on goal. Amat was sent off and Espanyol were down to 10 men.
Hector Moreno pulled one back for Espanyol on 72 minutes but any hopes of a comeback were quickly dashed when Jose Barkero restored the two-goal advantage four minutes later.
Espanyol's misery was further compounded on 81 minutes when substitute Walter Pandiani was given a straight red card for an elbow in the face of Victoriano Rivas 'Nano'.
Mallorca got their first points since the opening weekend, beating Real Sociedad 2-1 at home to take some pressure of coach Michael Laudrup.
Victor Casadesus and Chori Castro came to Laudrup's rescue with goals in the 20th and 49th minutes after Imanol Agirretxe had put Sociedad ahead with a clever chip on 15 minutes.
The winner came when Castro drilled a powerful shot into the top right hand corner of the net after the Sociedad defence failed to clear a corner.
After three defeats in a row without a goal scored, Laudrup was understandably happy with the win.
But he admitted that his team had rode their luck in a match where Sociedad had hit the woodwork three times.
"We have suffered for that win. Real had four or five clear-cut chances, but Dudu (Aouate, Mallorca goalkeeper) was fantastic," he said.
Also on Sunday Granada and Osasuna drew 1-1 in Los Carmenes to both remain in the bottom half of the table.
Raul Garcia opened the scoring on 29 minutes for Osasuna before Fran Rico evened the game in the 63rd minute.
Argentine magician Messi registered his 12th career hat-trick in a Barcelona shirt in a 5-0 mauling of Atletico Madrid as the defending champions moved into second place in the table, a point behind Real Betis.
Messi, who also hit three in the 8-0 rout of Sporting Gijon last weekend, leads La Liga goalscoring charts with eight, one in front of Portuguese star Ronaldo whose hat-trick came in the 6-2 defeat of Rayo Vallecano.
"Messi was again decisive, all you can do is congratulate him," said Barcelona coach Josep Guardiola.
"He is a player who cannot be explained; you just have to see him."
Real are in fifth place, one point behind Barcelona, Levante and Sevilla who beat Valencia 1-0 with a goal from Frederic Kanoute.
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