Falcao strike keeps Atletico level with Barca

Radamel Falcao scored a stunning last-minute free-kick to give Atletico Madrid a 1-0 win at Real Sociedad on Sunday and keep his team level with Barcelona on 22 points at the top of La Liga. The right-footed, curling strike was Falcao's ninth league goal of the campaign and the win was Atletico's 10th straight in all competitions, including seven in the league as they stayed eight points clear of city rivals Real Madrid who are fourth. Atletico coach Diego Simeone was delighted with the late victory. "Both sides went for the win, especially in the second-half, but we had Falcao who won it with a great free-kick. He puts in a lot of practice to improve that side of his game and we saw the consequence of that tonight," said Simeone. Sociedad fired a warning after only 15 seconds when former Arsenal player Carlos Vela found Antoine Griezmann whose shot was well blocked by Thibaut Courtois in the Atletico goal. It took the visitors time to get used to very wet conditions before Koke tested Enaut Zubikarai on 12 minutes with a low shot. Courtois had to stretch to deny Vela on 20 minutes and Falcao blocked a goalbound shot from Asier Illarramendi as Real enjoyed the best chances of a goalless first period. Atletico were brighter after the interval with Falcao going near with a header and then narrowly failing to meet a cross at close range. The Colombian appeared to be on a mission to open the scoring, shooting just wide from close range and attempting to take on the whole Sociedad defence on one occasion. In a bid to help him the Uruguayan Cristian Rodriguez was introduced and he immediately forced a save from distance and Brazilian centre-half Joao Miranda headed over the bar. The home team's chances were now rare with Vela blazing over the best with 10 minutes remaining. Just as it looked as if the game was heading for the draw Illarramendi tugged Rodriguez on the edge of the area and up stepped Falcao to hit home for a priceless victory. Earlier on Sunday, Cristain Stuani powered home an injury-time header to give Espanyol a vital 3-2 win, their first of the season, at home to Rayo Vallecano. The visitors went ahead through Brazilian Leo Baptistao and he scored again on 62 minutes to level the game after Joan Verdu had scored either side of the interval for the Barcelona side. Both sides had a player sent-off before the Uruguayan Stuani rose to meet a Sergio Garcia cross for the winner that takes his side off the bottom of the table. That position is held by Osasuna who drew 0-0 with Betis in a hard fought game that neither side deserved to win. The result means the Pamplona side sit last on account of goals scored, level on five points with Espanyol. Betis are fifth on 13 points, the same as Levante who won 1-0 at Getafe thanks to a late thunderbolt from substitute Michel that puts the club from Valencia in sixth. Zaragoza won 2-1 at Granada with two early goals from Helder Postiga and Victor Rodriguez. El Arabi pulled one back for the home side on 77 minutes but Granada never looked like getting back into the game after having Iriney sent-off five minutes earlier. On Saturday, Lionel Messi hit a hat-trick as 10-man Barcelona edged a thrilling 5-4 victory at Deportivo La Coruna while Real Madrid beat Celta Vigo 2-0 to keep them eight points behind the Catalan side.

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