Sports Desk, Jan 2 (efe-epa).- Defending champions Real Madrid shout out Celta 2-0 on Saturday to grab first place in LaLiga by 1 point over cross-town rivals Atletico.
The Vigo side were on good form coming into the game in Madrid, posting five wins and a draw since Eduardo Coudet took over as coach.
Iago Aspas, a key component in Celta’s renaissance under Coudet, had an opportunity to put the visitors ahead in the fifth minute, but he missed and Nacho Fernandez’s clearance spurred a Blanco counter.
Marco Asensio, starting again in place of the now-fit Eden Hazard, raced down the field and delivered a perfect cross for Lucas Vazquez to head past Ruben Blanco and make it 1-0 for the hosts.
Aspas, the Celta captain, left the match with an injury early in the second half and the squad from Vigo soon found themselves trailing 2-0.
Luka Modric stole the ball in the Celta and end and relayed it to Vazquez, who found Asensio for the easy goal.
Real Madrid have 36 points from 17 matches. Atleti, with 35 points after 14 games, are away Sunday to 13th-place Alaves.
Celta Vigo remain in the eighth spot with 23 points.
Earlier Saturday, Villarreal nipped Levante 2-1 at La Ceramica in a contest that could have gone either way.
Both teams started well, but the hosts were a little sharper and they took the lead in the 20th minute with a goal by Fer Niño off Alfonso Pedraza’s cross.
The visitors improved when Mickaël Malsa came in for the injured Ruben Rochina at the half-hour mark, shortly after Levante’s Dani Gomez squandered a clear opportunity.
Coke forced a fine stop from Villarreal keeper Sergio Asenjo with a free-kick in the final moments of the first half.
The same dynamic carried over into the second period until the 54th minute, when Gerard Moreno doubled the lead for Villarreal with a great individual effort.
The home side looked set to see out the match comfortably, but Sergio Leon clawed back a goal for Levante in the 73rd minute, redirecting a ball from Nemanja Radoja just three minutes after taking the field as a substitute.
Levante were quick to create more chances, yet only the post stopped Moreno from restoring the two-goal lead in a final 15 minutes that saw end-to-end action.
The victory boosts Villarreal to 29 points, the same as third-place Real Sociedad, who have a better goal difference. Levante are 12th with 18 points.
Real Betis showed more ambition in Saturday’s derby, but had to settle for a 1-1 draw thanks to the heroics of Sevilla keeper Yassine Bono, who saved a penalty in the final stretch.
While chances were few and far between in the first half, Betis were clearly the better side and an unhappy Julen Lopetegui made a double change to start the second half, withdrawing Oliver Torres in favor of Ivan Rakitic and Luuk de Jong for Youssef En-Nesyri, Sevilla’s top scorer with nine goals.
The coach saw his move bear fruit in the 48th minute.
En-Nesyri gathered in a loose ball after Lucas Ocampos forced Betis into a poor clearance. The Moroccan put the ball in the path of Suso, who beat keeper Claudio Bravo to put Sevilla up 1-0.