Cristiano Ronaldo red card helps Atletico Madrid top La Liga for first time since 1996

Ronaldo was punished for lashing out during a draw for Real Madrid

Atletico Madrid took full advantage of Barcelona's rare slip-up as it pummeled Real Sociedad 4-0 on Sunday to take sole possession of the lead in the Spanish league for the first time this season.

David Villa, Diego Costa, Miranda, and the newly arrived Diego scored the goals that put Atletico clear at the top of the standings, having shared the lead with Barcelona for much of the campaign.

Atletico hold a three point advantage over Barcelona and Real Madrid after Athletic Bilbao rallied to draw 1-1 against Madrid, which finished without Cristiano Ronaldo after he was red carded.

Substitute Ibai Gomez's volley canceled out Jese Rodriguez's opener for Madrid, which played the final 15 minutes a man down after Ronaldo was sent off for swiping his hand across Carlos Gurpegi's face following a shove from his opponent. The contact seemed light, but Gurpegi fell to the ground as if he'd been hit hard.

Atletico honored former player and coach Luis Aragones before the match and fed off the emotion at the Vicente Calderon Stadium to boost its attempt to break the Barcelona-Madrid monopoly with a first championship since 1996.

Barcelona lost 3-2 to Valencia on Saturday, and Atletico did not waste the opportunity to go top by themselves for the first time since that championship-winning season. Not since Valencia's league title a decade ago has a club other than the big two won the Spanish league.

Diego Costa was lively from the start, and the Brazilian-born Spain striker fed Villa inside the box in the 38th minute to finish off a quick break by scoring the opener.

Villa sustained a leg injury moments later and had to be replaced by Raul Garcia.

With the home fans chanting Aragones' name throughout, Atletico came alive in the second half as Garcia found Diego Costa racing free between defenders in the 72nd and the forward beat goalkeeper Claudio Bravo with a right-footed shot for his 20th league goal of the season.

Two minutes later, Miranda headed home a corner kick out of Bravo's reach for 3-0 before Diego, who came on in the 58th for his first appearance in his return to the club, marked his return to Atletico by dribbling into the box to unleash a rising shot into goal with three minutes remaining.

"This is something nice for the players, who have made such effort and go into every single game with the same intensity and work ethic," Atletico coach Diego Simeone said. "Luis would appreciate the team's courage, since he was a courageous type with character, just like this team."

Atletico leads with 57 points, while Barcelona and Madrid share 54 points.

Jese lunged to guide Ronaldo's cross into the area beyond goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz for the 65th-minute opener in a game that was dominated by Bilbao up to that point.

Gomez made up for earlier misses by Aritz Aduritz and Ander Herrera when he ran onto a cleared ball outside the area to rip an unstoppable shot past goalkeeper Diego Lopez in the 73rd.

The intensity boiled over moments later when Ronaldo and Gurpegi tangled, the Ballon d'Or winner's straight red card means he will miss Madrid's next game.

"It's difficult when you lose a player without reason," Madrid defender Marcelo said. "It's already difficult to score one point here but Madrid has the obligation of winning every game. So (the red card) made it tougher."

Gomez nearly scored the winner in the 85th from another volley but Lopez tipped it over as Bilbao improved to 43 points in fourth.

Earlier Sunday, Cristian Herrera's second-half goal gave Elche a 1-0 victory against Almeria to lift the club above its relegation adversary, while Ruben Castro scored two goals as last-placed Real Betis beat Espanyol 2-0 to end a four-game losing streak.

Elche improved to 24 points, two more than Almeria which is 17th. Valladolid is 18th with 20, Rayo Vallecano has 17 and Betis 14.

All games held a minute's silence in honor of Aragones, the former Spain coach who died on Saturday at age 75.

AP

News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Sport
sport
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape