Atletico Madrid blew the Spanish championship race wide open by defeating previously unbeaten leaders Barcelona 2-1 in an enthralling game on Sunday.
Barcelona's lead over title rivals Real Madrid was reduced to two points after Pep Guardiola's defensively depleted side crashed to defeat in the Spanish capital. Missing the injured Eric Abidal, Dani Alves, Dmytro Chygrynskiy and Yaya Toure, along with Rafa Marquez and Gerard Pique suspended, Barcelona struggled from the start while Seydou Keita soon limped off to add to their problems.
Diego Forlan coolly put Atletico ahead from an excellent Jose Antonio Reyes pass that sliced the defence wide open before Sergio Aguero missed an excellent chance to add to the lead. A well-placed Simao free-kick did extend the home side's advantage before Barcelona began to find their feet. Zlatan Ibrahimovic pulled a goal back with a close-range volley but while Barcelona pressed throughout the second half they could not find the equaliser and succumbed to their first defeat of the season.
"I would like to congratulate Atletico on a good game. They were very well organised while we were not at our best and did not get our passing rhythm going," said Barcelona coach Guardiola.
"I say nothing against our players because they did their best but we were not on our game. When we lost the ball we did not position ourselves well. The league now depends on Real Madrid and us, there is a long way to go and the pressure we put on ourselves is important so that we do things well."
Atletico coach Quique Sanchez Flores was delighted with his side's performance. "This is a moment we should really savour and we ought to be really pleased with the way we played," he said. "We tried to play a compact game and keep it tight so that they did not have the chance to break and we succeeded in that. To beat Barcelona is really a difficult feat."
Earlier, a Luis Fabiano goal gave Sevilla a 1-0 win over Osasuna and lifted them into a UEFA Champions League place. Sevilla leapfrogged Mallorca, who play on Monday, into fourth place after a workmanlike performance.
The visitors took the game to Sevilla and had the chance to go ahead but a Javier Calleja shot was blocked by Andres Palop. Brazil international Luis Fabiano also had a good opportunity before he scored the only goal of the game with a bullet header from an excellent cross by Diego Capel.
La Coruna blow
Deportivo La Coruna's European hopes were dealt a blow as they were comfortably beaten 2-0 by Espanyol. Espanyol went ahead through Joan Verdu after 38 minutes but it was the expulsion of Antonio Tomas that really turned the game in the favour of the home side.
He was shown a red card for elbowing Francisco Chica after the break and Jose Callejon soon added a crucial second goal. Getafe lost the chance to move to within a point of Deportivo in sixth when they drew 2-2 after conceding an injury-time equaliser against Almeria.
Pablo Piatti put Almeria ahead but Getafe turned the game on its head through Francisco Casquero and Roberto Soldado before Fernando Soriano's goal ensured a grandstand finish. Honours were even as Valladolid drew 1-1 against Zaragoza in a crucial relegation battle.
Zaragoza were looking for their third successive win but were pegged back by a Diego Costa goal. Against the run of play Humberto Suazo equalised for Zaragoza and they hung on in the second half despite the sending off of Ander Herrera.
Malaga gave their own survival hopes a boost with a comprehensive 3-0 win away at Racing Santander with Weligton, Salvador Caicedo and Victor Obinna scoring the goals. Mallorca are enjoying one of the best seasons in their history and they meet Tenerife in a new, controversial Monday night slot which has caused plenty of controversy.
The Canary Island side are particularly unhappy as the match coincides with their famous carnival festivities. Real Madrid had piled the pressure on Barcelona on Saturday with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring twice in a 3-0 win over bottom side Xerez.
Third-placed Valencia earned a 1-1 draw at Sporting Gijon, while Villarreal saw off Athletic Bilbao 2-1 in a stormy game that culminated in three red cards. A late penalty save from Villarreal's Diego Lopez led to a heated finale with Javier Martinez and Pablo Orbaiz dismissed for Bilbao and Diego Godin for the home side.