As the league’s two top scorers came head to head in the shape of Lionel Messi and Falcao, it was Atlético’s Columbian marksman who upstaged his Argentinian counterpart in the early stages, hitting the post before producing a sublime chipped finish to put the visitors ahead.
Tito Vilanova’s men found it tough going to break down the Rojiblancos, and it took Adriano’s dipping, swerving effort to bring things level, before Sergio Busquets turned in from close range before the interval. Inevitably, Messi struck after the break, driving low into the bottom corner from outside the area, before a late chip meant that the forward has now struck twice in his last six Liga outings.
Real Madrid missed the chance to advance their own cause as they conceded a late equaliser in their 2-2 home draw with Espanyol. Sergio García put the visitors ahead on the counterattack with 31 minutes gone, but the Merengues looked to have turned things around after Cristiano Ronaldo levelled on the stroke of half-time and Fábio Coentrão finished a fine move shortly after the break. Albín had other ideas, though, and finished from close to goal two minutes from time.
Afterwards, Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho conceded it is “practically impossible” for his side to now retain La Liga after dropping two more points.
Speaking before Barcelona’s win over Atletico, Mourinho told reporters:
“It’s practically impossible. It’s 10 points which could become 13. 13 points in December are a lot. We had eight last year and despite drawing two matches we maintained that distance.”
Elsewhere, Levante moved up to fifth, a point behind Málaga, after Rubén García secured them a 1-0 triumph at Real Zaragoza, and Rayo Vallecano prevailed by the same scoreline at Valencia.