Falcao fires Atletico Madrid to win over Sevilla
BARCELONA (AP) -- Radamel Falcao scored his 25th goal of the Spanish league season to give Atletico Madrid a hard-fought 1-0 win at Sevilla and keep his team in the hunt for a second-place finish on Sunday.
Also, Real Sociedad extended its unbeaten run to 14 straight games by drawing 0-0 at Osasuna, while Espanyol beat nine-man Getafe 2-0 for its third straight away victory.
After 76 minutes featuring more hard fouls than scoring chances, Falcao finally broke through with a goal after the Colombia striker had battled again and again with Sevilla's defenders.
Falcao stretched his left leg to redirect Raul Garcia's low cross into the net after substitute Adrian Lopez had unbalanced Sevilla's defense with a lobbed pass from the left to the right side of the area for Garcia to volley back across the six-yard box.
It was Falcao's fourth goal in the last four rounds. Only Barcelona's Lionel Messi with 43 and Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo with 31 have scored more goals in Spain's topflight this campaign.
Midfielder Ivan Rakitic almost snatched Sevilla a point in stoppage time when his free kick rattled the crossbar.
Atletico dealt Sevilla its first loss at Sanchez Pizjuan stadium in eight consecutive matches and hurt its hopes of making a late-season push to capture a Europa League spot for next season, leaving it in 11th place.
Atletico's win also reduced the gap with second-place Madrid to three points before the always hotly-contested Spanish capital derby next weekend. Coach Diego Simeone, however, will be missing forward Diego Costa for the Madrid match after he picked up a one-game suspension for accumulation of yellow cards.
Sociedad's draw in Pamplona left it in fourth place and in control of Spain's final Champions League berth, and set up a critical match next weekend when it hosts a surging Valencia side that is just two points adrift.
In an otherwise drab match, Sociedad enjoyed the only clear scoring chances in the 24th minute when striker Imanol Agirretxe headed a corner kick onto the post before goalkeeper Andres Fernandez sprang to save Xabi Prieto's attempt to put in the rebound.
Sociedad has only lost once in its last 22 matches.
Earlier, Joan Verdu finished off a well-orchestrated passing combination by Espanyol culminating in Sergio Garcia's chested assist for the midfielder to score in the 37th.
Getafe was decimated by Borja Fernandez's second yellow card in the 52nd and Federico Fernandez's red card in the 72nd for a low tackle on Garcia.
Fernandez's foul led to Christian Stuani netting Espanyol's second goal from the resulting free kick a minute later when he pushed in a short cross from Diego Colotto after Wakaso Mubarak found him in the area.
Espanyol has risen from last place to 10th under replacement coach Javier Aguirre. The former Mexico coach has a contract until the end of the season and remained coy about his plans.
"We can't talk about my future until I sit down with the directors of the club,'' Aguirre said.
Getafe stayed in ninth place after its first loss at Alfonso Perez Coliseum in 11 games.
Also, Fernando Llorente scored his second goal of the season to give 10-man Athletic Bilbao a 1-1 draw at Deportivo La Coruna.
Llorente, who has had limited playing time this season after refusing to renew his contract last summer, canceled out Bruno Gama's long-range strike in the 38th when the Spain striker headed in Andoni Iraola's lobbed pass one minute before halftime.
Bilbao midfielder Ander Iturraspe was dismissed with his second yellow card in the 81st, but Deportivo never threatened to take advantage of its extra man.
Deportivo saw its four-game winning run end as it crept two points clear of the relegation zone.
Barcelona maintained its 13-point lead by edging out Levante 1-0 on Saturday, after Madrid beat Real Betis 3-1. Also, Valencia routed Malaga 5-1, and Granada drew 1-1 with Valladolid. Mallorca and Rayo Vallecano drew 1-1 on Friday.
Last-place Celta Vigo hosts second-to-last Real Zaragoza on Monday.