Atletico Madrid clear at the top, Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid march on

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Published: January 18, 2016 1:52:38 PM

Atletico Madrid opened a four-point lead at the top of La Liga with a typically efficient 3-0 victory at Las Palmas after Real Madrid jumped above Barcelona into second thanks to a 5-1 destruction of Sporting Gijon on Sunday.

Atletico Madrid opened a four-point lead at the top of La Liga with a typically efficient 3-0 victory at Las Palmas after Real Madrid jumped above Barcelona into second thanks to a 5-1 destruction of Sporting Gijon on Sunday.

A rare goal from Atletico fullback Filipe Luis in the 17th minute and a second-half Antoine Griezmann double, the France forward’s 11th and 12th goals of the campaign, lifted Diego Simeone’s side to 47 points from 20 matches.

Real continued their serene progress under new coach Zinedine Zidane when Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema each helped themselves to two goals at the Bernabeu.

Gareth Bale, who was forced off with a suspected calf strain just before halftime, had opened the scoring in the seventh minute.

Real hammered Deportivo La Coruna 5-0 last weekend on Zidane’s debut and Sunday’s dismantling of Gijon, who are second from bottom, gave them 43 points from their 20 games.

Champions Barca have 42 points from 18 matches before eighth-placed Athletic Bilbao visit the Nou Camp later on Sunday.

Atletico initially struggled for control at Las Palmas’s Estadio Gran Canaria before Filipe Luis found some space on the left of the area and rifled a shot into the corner.

Spain playmaker Koke sent Griezmann clear to make it 2-0 in the 68th minute and the pair combined again to complete the scoring a minute from time.

“It was not easy in the least but I think we played a very serious game and everyone contributed to some great defence,” Filipe Luis told Spanish television.

“It’s true that we have struggled a bit to score goals this season but little by little the forwards are gaining confidence,” added the Brazil fullback.

Real tore into promoted Gijon and were 4-0 ahead inside the first 20 minutes as Ronaldo, Bale and Benzema, collectively known in Spain as “BBC”, ran riot.

After Bale had headed in a Toni Kroos corner, Ronaldo smashed in a ninth-minute second.

Bale crossed for Benzema to score with an acrobatic volley in the 12th minute, Ronaldo turned in a Dani Carvajal centre in the 18th and Benzema got his second to make it 5-0 four minutes before the break.

Gijon pulled a goal back in the 62nd minute through Ismael Lopez.

Ronaldo, who was lucky to escape a red card when he kicked out at Gijon midfielder Nacho Cases shortly after halftime, and Benzema top the scoring charts with 16 goals apiece, one ahead of Barca pair Neymar and Luis Suarez.

EXPENSIVE VICTORY

It was another morale-boosting performance from the world’s richest club by income following the sacking of the unpopular Rafa Benitez, under whom they failed to impress against any of their main rivals in Spain and Europe.

The victory may have come at a cost, however, as Benzema was also forced off, with around 25 minutes left, after hurting his foot in a collision with team mate James Rodriguez.

Zidane said Bale would need a scan to determine the extent of the injury, while Benzema had suffered a knock that was probably less serious.

“It’s been a fantastic start because it’s not easy to score five goals twice in a row,” Zidane told a news conference. “We’re only at the start though and what we want is to win at least one trophy at the end of the season.”

Gary Neville’s disappointing start as Valencia coach continued when the ambitious Singapore-owned club drew 2-2 at home to lowly Rayo Vallecano, prompting more rumblings of discontent from the fans.

Neville, who took over when Nuno Espirito Santo was discarded last month, has overseen six games without a win in Spain’s top division, with four draws and two defeats leaving the team mired down in 11th place.

Valencia risk missing out on a lucrative berth in continental competition for next season, the least they would have expected before the start of the campaign.

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