Barca five points clear at La Liga halfway mark

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MADRID, Jan. 29 (Xinhua) -- FC Barcelona opened up a five-point lead at the top of La Liga after the 19th round of matches over the weekend.

Barca's win in Girona, coupled with a 0-0 draw between Real Madrid and Real Sociedad, allows Xavi Hernandez's side to open up a gap over their closest rivals, while the draw in the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium leaves Real Sociedad three points behind Real Madrid.

Both Real Sociedad and Madrid had chances in an entertaining match on Sunday night, although Real Sociedad will be happier with a point after Alex Remiro made a series of impressive stops.

At the other end, Thibaut Courtois was also at his best to deny Robert Navarro and Takefusa Kubo, who continued his excellent season against his former club.

Barcelona made hard work of their visit to Girona, with a solitary goal from young midfielder Pedri giving them all three points.

Pedri had started the game on the subs' bench after struggling with a slight physical problem in Barca's midweek Copa del Rey win over Real Sociedad, but he came on as a first-half substitute after Ousmane Dembele suffered a thigh injury.

Early indications are that Dembele, who had been in excellent form prior to his injury, will be out of action for around a month.

Saul Niguez scored the only goal of the game as Atletico Madrid recovered from their Copa del Rey defeat to Real Madrid with a 1-0 win away to Osasuna.

Saul controlled a long ball from defense to beat Aitor Fernandez, while at the other end, saves from Jan Oblak denied Moi Gomez and Diego Moreno.

Betis got back to winning ways thanks to a late penalty from Borja Iglesias that gave them a 1-0 win away to Getafe, who are struggling after four consecutive defeats.

Iago Aspas scored the only goal as Celta Vigo beat Athletic Club Bilbao 1-0 to climb out of the bottom three.

Aspas scored the goal in the second half after Athletic winger Alex Berenguer had twice hit the woodwork for the visitors, who nevertheless looked flat after Thursday's Cup win in Valencia. Athletic were without striker Inaki Williams, whose incredible run of 251 consecutive league appearances was ended by a knee injury.

Moroccan international striker Youssef En-Nesyri scored twice as Sevilla continue to climb away from the bottom three thanks to a 3-0 win at home to Elche.

The striker opened his account with a powerful header in the 29th minute and added his second in the first-half injury time, two minutes after Marcos Acuna had doubled Sevilla's lead following Pedro Bigas' expulsion for Elche, which left the visitors with 10 men.

An injury-time winner from Valladolid's Cyle Larin on his debut ended their five-game losing streak with a 1-0 win at home to Valencia while piling the pressure on Valencia coach Gennaro Gattuso, whose side were knocked out of the Copa del Rey in midweek and face Real Madrid on February 1.

Cadiz registered a 2-0 win at home to Mallorca, thanks to Theo Bongonda's 10th-minute strike and a 38th-minute penalty from Alex Fernandez, which allowed Cadiz to sit deep and defend comfortably after the break.

The weekend began with Almeria ending Espanyol's two-game winning run at 3-1.

Luis Suarez, Leo Baptistao and Francisco Portillo's goals put Almeria 3-0 up before Joselu's late consolation for the visitors. Enditem

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