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

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past