Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi fired Barcelona to a 2-0 victory over 10-man Villarreal as the leaders won for the first time in three La Liga games to stay five points clear on Sunday while Atletico Madrid edged Real Betis 1-0.
Barca looked set for a third consecutive league draw as they created scant opportunities but were presented with the advantage of an extra man when Villarreal midfielder Daniel Raba was given a straight red card for a wild, studs-up challenge on Sergio Busquets on the hour mark.
Barca did not take long to cash in and Suarez broke the deadlock in the 72nd minute, rounding goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo to complete a move of quick passes by Lionel Messi, Jordi Alba and substitute Paco Alcacer.
The visitors then stretched their lead nine minutes later with the help of a haphazard backpass from Victor Ruiz to Busquets, who played in Messi for his 14th league goal this campaign and round off the victory.
Barca lead the standings on 39 points, five clear of second-placed Valencia and six ahead of Atletico in third, while champions Real Madrid are fourth on 31.
Earlier on Sunday a scrappy goal by Saul Niguez racked up a third straight victory in La Liga for Atletico, who scrapped their way to an unconvincing win at Betis.
The Spanish midfielder slid in at the back post to meet a low cross from Sime Vrsaljko to score the only goal of the game in the 30th minute, netting for the second game in a row.
Atletico were without talismanic forward Antoine Griezmann and only had two shots on target and 26 percent possession.
Diego Simeone’s side survived a huge penalty appeal for a shove by Angel Correa on forward Cristian Tello shortly before Saul’s goal while Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak pulled off an impressive save from former Barca forward Tello in the home side’s best attempt of the second half.