After seeing rivals gradually cut into its lead, Atletico Madrid finally got some breathing room at the top of the Spanish league on Sunday.
Atletico ended its winless run by routing last-place Eibar 5-0, then saw city rival Real Madrid held 0-0 by Getafe.
Those results gave Atletico a three-point lead over second-place Madrid, and a five-point cushion over third-place Barcelona, which has a game in hand after winning the Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.
“When you win, everything becomes easier, you gain some tranquility,” Atletico coach Diego Simeone said. “It has become a very exciting finish to the league and hopefully we can keep improving so it’s not a competition in which only Real Madrid or Barcelona can win it.”
Madrid had moved within a point of the lead after beating Barcelona in the previous round. Atletico was coming off a loss to Sevilla and a 1-1 draw against Real Betis.
“We will keep fighting,” Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. “We know that we will need to be at our best. There’s still a lot left and we will keep trying. This league is very difficult for everyone.”
Angel Correa and Marcos Llorente scored two goals each and Yannick Carrasco added another as Atletico routed Eibar at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.
Simeone’s team easily won despite playing without Luis Suarez and Joao Felix because of injuries. Correa, one of the players who came in to replace the injured regular starters, broke the deadlock with a goal from close range in the 42nd minute, then quickly added to the lead after a nice turn to clear a defender inside the area in the 44th.
Carrasco scored the third goal in a breakaway in the 49th, then Llorente got the fourth from inside the box in the 53rd and the fifth from close range in the 68th.
Eibar’s winless streak in the league reached 14 consecutive matches. The Basque Country club, which had no shots on target, is four points from safety.
Atletico’s next match is on Thursday against Huesca, another team fighting relegation. Huesca lost 1-0 at Alaves on Sunday after conceding in the 85th. Madrid visits Cadiz on Wednesday.
Missing some of its top players, Real Madrid struggled against Madrid rival Getafe and needed a good performance by goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to avoid an even more disappointing result.
After difficult games against Liverpool in the Champions League and against Barcelona in the Spanish league, Zidane rested some of his regular starters, including Toni Kroos and Karim Benzema, the team’s leading scorer this season.
Zidane again had to deal with a depleted defense because of injuries and suspensions, having to use reserve-team player Victor Chust in central defense.
Madrid had a goal by forward Mariano Diaz disallowed for offside less than 10 minutes into the match, and shortly after the Spanish powerhouse nearly conceded when Jaime Mata’s header hit the post for hosts Getafe, which sit four points from the relegation zone.
Sevilla won 2-1 at Real Sociedad to move within a point of third-place Barcelona, practically securing the final Champions League spot.
Sevilla has a 15-point gap over fifth-place Villarreal.
Sociedad, which won the postponed 2020 Copa del Rey final two weeks ago, took the lead through Carlos Fernandez in the fifth minute, but Sevilla rallied with goals by Fernando in the 22nd and Youssef En-Nesyri in the 24th.
Villarreal routed regional rival Levante 5-1, with Nigerian midfielder Samu Chukwueze scoring a pair of second-half goals for the visitors.
Betis drew 2-2 at home against Valencia, while Cadiz and Celta Vigo played to a 0-0 draw. Midtable Osasuna beat relegation-threatened Elche 2-0.
There were no league matches on Saturday because of the Copa del Rey final.