Pedro struck both goals to give Barcelona a narrow 2-1 win over Levante at the Nou Camp on Sunday evening as La Liga resumed following the winter break.
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After a goalless first half, the Spain forward netted twice in the space of 12 minutes to give Pep Guardiola's side the upper hand, and the Catalans held on to provisionally move five points clear of fierce rivals Real Madrid, despite Christian Stuani's late volley.
Barca were missing both first-choice central defenders for this game, with captain Carles Puyol injured and Gerard Pique suspended. In their absence, holding midfielder Sergio Busquets was asked to fill in at the back alongside full-back Eric Abidal, who switched to a central role.
Deportivo La Coruna striker Adrian Lopez took centre stage to help his side shatter Athletic Bilbao's six-match winning streak at San Mames with a 2-1 victory.
Adrian won and converted a first-half penalty to put Depor ahead, was the player brought down that led to Mikel San Jose's 34th-minute dismissal and also netted Depor's second goal seven minutes into the second half.
That proved enough to help improving Depor claim their sixth win of the season, although Athletic will feel they deserved at least a draw out of what was an entertaining encounter.
Malaga climbed out of the relegation zone after fighting back from a goal down to defeat fellow strugglers Sporting Gijon 2-1 at El Molinon.
Sporting, who started the day one place and one point behind third-bottom Malaga, took the lead through a Diego Castro penalty in the 42nd minute to boost hopes of a first win in 12 league and cup matches.
However, their joy was short-lived as Malaga drew level on the stroke of half-time through Weligton before the visitors claimed all three points thanks to Apono's spot-kick just before the hour.
Frederic Kanoute struck the only goal of the game as Sevilla ended a run of five successive Primera Division defeats with a narrow 1-0 victory over Osasuna.
Kanoute headed in Jesus Navas' free-kick in the 36th minute as Sevilla recorded their first league win since mid-November.
Sevilla had suffered six defeats and a draw in seven competitive games heading into the Christmas break but they recorded a morale-boosting 5-3 Copa del Rey win over Malaga in their final match of 2010 and they built on that with an important league triumph against Osasuna.
Ten-man Valencia got one over on Champions League rivals Espanyol with a clearly offside winner deep into injury time at the Mestalla.
Pegged back to 1-1 when Ricardo Costa's own goal levelled after Aritz Aduriz's opener, Los Che then lost their goalscorer to a harsh red card.
They had the last laugh, though, as Juan Mata stole in at the far post to head home Costa's knockdown from an offside position to earn three vital points and go clear above Espanyol in fourth.