LONDON: Karim Benzema scored twice as Real Madrid took over at the top of the Spanish league with a 4-2 win over Villarreal while midfielder Verza’s double gave Almeria a shock 2-0 victory over Atletico Madrid.
Diego Simeone’s men were reduced to speculative shots while 13th-placed Almeria threatened on the counter attack as the game wore on, with Aleix Vidal hitting a post before Verza put the hosts ahead 10 minutes from the end.
Dani Aranzubia was then dismissed for upending Jonathan Zongo in the penalty area and Verza scored from the spot with four minutes to go.
Gareth Bale marked his Real Madrid return after injury with the opening goal and the Wales winger then set up Benzema to give the home side a commanding lead, only to see Mario Gaspar reply for Villarreal before the break.
Jese restored Real’s two-goal cushion and, after Giovani Dos Santos scored a fine free kick, Benzema made it 4-2 as Real showed no signs of missing the suspended Cristiano Ronaldo.
Real and Atletico have 57 points from 23 games but Carlo Ancelotti’s side are top on goal difference. Barcelona, who visit Sevilla on Sunday, are three points behind.
In Germany runaway leaders Bayern Munich survived a turbulent opening against Nurnberg, who hit the bar and had two players carried off in the first half-hour, before claiming a 2-0 win in the Bundesliga.
Strikes from Mario Mandzukic and captain Philipp Lahm, with his first goal in more than three years, gave Bayern their 12th successive league win, leaving them 13 points clear at the top.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Robert Lewandowksi scored twice each as third-placed Borussia Dortmund thrashed hapless Werder Bremen 5-1 away, pushing the four-times champions closer to the relegation zone.
Hamburg SV’s miserable run continued when the Bundesliga’s only ever-present side conceded three first-half goals on the way to a 3-0 home defeat against Hertha Berlin, keeping them in the relegation zone after a sixth successive defeat.
In Holland two-goal Graziano Pelle continued his scoring spree and Jean-Paul Boetius also grabbed a double to inspire Feyenoord to a 5-1 home rout of NEC Nijmegen in the Dutch league on Saturday. Italian-born Pelle missed a first-half penalty but his double took his league tally this season to 18 goals.
Lex Immers was the other scorer as Feyenoord recovered from going a goal down after 11 minutes to join Vitesse Arnhem and Twente Enschede with 43 points, four behind champions Ajax Amsterdam who travel to Zwolle on Sunday.
In Italy Gonzalo Higuain shot Napoli to within three points of second-placed Roma after scoring twice in a lively 3-1 home victory over Milan.
The Argentine striker is second behind Fiorentina’s Giuseppe Rossi in the Serie A scoring charts with 12 for the season.
Higuain’s glancing header 11 minutes after the break and tap-in eight minutes from time moved Rafael Benitez’s side up to 47 points in third place.
Napoli are three behind Roma, who have a game in hand and await the Rome derby with Lazio on Sunday, but 12 behind leaders and champions Juventus.
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