Madrid, April 6 (IANS) Real Madrid remain top of the Spanish football league with a two-point lead over FC Barcelona following a 4-2 away win over Club Deportivo Leganés but they were made to work much harder than expected by the La Liga minnows whose annual budget is less than half of what Madrid paid for Colombian international James Rodriguez.
Things looked to be going according to script as goals from James and two from Alvaro Morata put a much-changed Madrid 3-0 ahead after just 23 minutes on Wednesday night, reports Xinhua news agency.
The home side managed to steady the ship and got right back into the game with quickfire goals from Gabriel and Luciano Never on 31 and 34 minutes.
An own goal from Martin Mantovani restored Madrid's two-goal cushion early in the second half, but Leganes pressed them right until the final whistle.
Barcelona kept up the pressure at the top of the table with a 3-0 win at home to Sevilla FC.
Lionel Messi was the architect of the win with two goals and the pass which set up Luis Suarez for Barca's opening in a game which was over by half time.
Sevilla have not won in their last four league games and may have to start looking over their shoulder in order to ensure they remain at least in fourth place.
Atletico Madrid strengthened their grip on third place and a direct qualification for next season's Champions League after Felipe Luis' first half goal gave them a 1-0 win at home to Real Sociedad on Tuesday night.
Atletico wasted several chances to extend their lead, including one incredible miss by Fernando Torres, but the result was never in doubt thanks to another committed display in midfield and defense and Simeone's side are back to their best four days ahead of trip to face Real Madrid.
Villarreal move back into fifth thanks to Adrian Lopez's 47th minute goal which gave them a 1-0 win away to struggling Betis, who rarely looked like getting anything from the game, while Athletic Club Bilbao have moved above Real Sociedad into sixth thanks to an easy win at home to Espanyol.
The match had been billed as a clash between two candidates for Europe but Athletic dominated completely and had the result in the bag by halftime thanks to two goals from Aritz Aduriz.
There was drama in the relegation zone as Malaga won a vital match away to Sporting Gijon, to open up an 8-point lead over the drop zone.
Sandro Ramirez's 40th minute goal gave Malaga their first win of 2017 and leaves Sporting struggling to avoid relegation.
There were no goals in the match between Deportivo la Coruna and Granada, which favors neither of the two relegation candidates, while Alex Berenguer's goal gave Osasuna their second win of the season as they took a surprise 1-0 triumph away to Alaves.