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Barcelona defeats Athletic to move back on top

Ivan Rakitic scored a second-half winner as Barcelona overpowered Athletic Bilbao 1-0 Tuesday to get back in front of Real Madrid in the Spanish league.

Rakitic broke the deadlock in the 71st minute to move Barcelona three points ahead of Madrid, which on Wednesday hosts relegation-threatened Mallorca. A victory will give the lead back to Madrid because it has better tiebreakers.

Rakitic scored less than 10 minutes after coming off the bench, firing a right-foot shot into the corner after an assist by Lionel Messi. It was Rakitic’s first goal for Barcelona since March 2019.

Messi, who turns 33 on Wednesday, again wasn’t able to score his milestone 700th career goal for club and country. He came close twice with shots that just missed the target late in the second half.

Barcelona was coming off a 0-0 draw at Sevilla, a result that allowed Madrid to take over the lead for the first time since the league resumed after the pandemic break.

Athletic, which has won only one of its three matches after the break, dropped to 10th place.

Atlético Madrid extended its good run after the pandemic break with a 1-0 win at Levante.

An own-goal by Bruno González in the 15th minute gave Atlético its third consecutive win and moved Diego Simeone’s team back into third place in the standings. Atlético is two points ahead of Sevilla, which had temporarily moved in front after a 2-2 draw at Villarreal on Monday.

Atlético was sixth when the league was interrupted by the coronavirus, but its winning run — coupled with a series of poor results by its rivals — permitted the team to quickly get back into the Champions League places.

“Happy for another victory and for these very important three points that take us closer to our goal of qualifying for the Champions League,” Atlético midfielder Marcos Llorente said. González found his own net while trying to intercept a cross from Llorente to Diego Costa inside the area.

Atlético is six points clear of fifth-place Getafe, which drew 1-1 at Valladolid.

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