Barcelona hold on to beat Sevilla, Villarreal close in on third-placed Real

Barcelona battled back after going down a goal early in their match with Sevilla to secure a 2-1 win and maintain an eight-point cushion ahead of second-placed Atletico Madrid in the La Liga table.

Vitolo put the visitors ahead in the 20th minute, finishing off a nice cross in from Benoît Tremoulinas with a well-placed volley to beat Barca goalkeeper Claudio Bravo.

The hosts woke up after the Sevilla goal, and in the 31st minute Lionel Messi blasted a left-footed shot from a free kick to the upper-right corner of Sergio Rico's goal.

After half-time, Gerard Pique gave Barca their first lead in the 48th minute, as the defender benefitted from a move between Messi and Luis Suarez and was there to clean up from close range after a cross in from the Uruguayan.

Both teams created good chances throughout the remainder of the second half, but Sevilla could not find the equaliser and Barcelona were content to run out 2-1 winners.

Villarreal tightened their grip on a place in the Champions League and moved just two points behind Real Madrid with a comprehensive 3-0 win over 10-man Levante.

After upsetting Napoli in the Europa League during the week, the Yellow Submarine continued their impressive run.

They made a quick start to the game, with Leo Baptistao cutting in from the wing before firing a shot past Diego Marino from an acute angle.

Samu Castillejo finally ended his goal drought after half an hour for the opener. Lopez Adrian broke down the left and drove at the Levante defence before squaring for Castillejo to slot home his first goal since arriving from Malaga in the summer.

Any hopes Levante had of getting back into the game after the break were dashed as Adrian's precise shot went in off the post to secure the points for Marcelinho's men in the 48th minute.

Gary Neville's four-game winning streak with Valencia came to an abrupt end with a 3-0 defeat to Athletic Bilbao following seven frantic minutes late in the second half.

Neville's side had beaten Espanyol and Granada in the league and enjoyed back-to-back victories over Rapid Vienna in the Europa League but the late onslaught was too much to overcome.

Valencia missed out on a chance to move up to ninth in the Primera Division table and instead stay 12th, seven points behind Athletic.

Athletic eventually broke the deadlock on 73 minutes. The move began with a stray pass by Santi Mina and Mikel Rico picked out Mikel San Jose on the right, who spotted Sabin Merino unmarked in the middle of the box and the 24-year-old calmly headed his cross into the net.

The second goal came from another Valencia giveaway, Rico robbing Dani Parejo after an ill-advised backheel and quickly playing in Iker Muniain, who slid the ball through the legs of Diego Alves.

Valencia's heads had dropped and moments later they conceded again, Aritz Aduriz getting up from Benat Etxebarria's corner to nod in the third.

Jose Gonzalez made an immediate impact as Granada coach as his side lifted themselves off the bottom of the table with a 1-0 win over Deportivo La Coruna.

Former Albacete and Cordoba boss Gonzalez took over the reins on Monday night following the sacking of Jose Ramon Sandoval.

Sandoval was dismissed following a run of four successive defeats and eight losses in nine games, but Gonzalez enjoyed instant success as Youssef El-Arabi's first-half penalty earned Granada victory at the Riazor.