Barcelona, Dec 12: Atletico Madrid's away struggles hit a new low on Sunday when it lost 4-2 at Espanyol in the Spanish league.
Under coach Gregorio Manzano, Atletico has won just once in 11 away games in all competitions, including a 2-1 defeat at third-tier Albacete in the Copa del Rey earlier this week.
“We have to take a hard look at why we are not able to play well away from home,” a perplexed Manzano said after the game. “It is something that concerns me very much.”
Playmaker Joan Verdu quickly put Espanyol ahead 2-0 with a pair of well-placed long strikes in the fifth and seventh minutes.
Midfielder Ndri Romaric intercepted Atletico goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois' poor pass and laid off for Verdu to blast the ball from outside the area to open the scoring. The former Barcelona youth product then took advantage of Atletico's passive defense to shoot into the left corner of the net and double the score.
Romaric added a third for the hosts in the 19th after a slick one-two passing combination with Sergio Garcia left him free in the area.
Striker Radamel Falcao pulled one back for Atletico in the 32nd with his ninth goal of season, but Garcia burst through Atletico's defense to make the game safe in the 54th.
Only Courtois' goalkeeping down the stretch saved Atletico from a greater loss, before Arda Turan reduced the final deficit with a goal in the 83rd.
Espanyol's first win in six games kept it in eighth place, one point ahead of Atletico, which has earned just one point away from Vicente Calderon stadium this season.
Atletico midfielder Gabi Fernandez recognized that the run of poor results has put Manzano under increasing scrutiny.
“The coach is part of the group and has his share of the blame, but we players are the first ones responsible for what is happening,” he said. “We are the ones who are on the pitch.”
Elsewhere, Malaga salvaged a 1-1 home draw against Osasuna to maintain its place among Spain's Europa League contenders.
Malaga created more scoring chances throughout at La Rosaleda stadium, with former Osasuna defender Nacho Monreal coming close in the 32nd with a volley that hit the post.
Osasuna forward Ibrahima Balde grabbed the opener a minute later when he pounced on a loose ball inside the six-yard box.
Malaga pressed forward after halftime, and substitute Juanmi Jimenez strode in unmarked at the far post to convert Sergio Sanchez's cross in the 70th to split the points.
The draw kept Malaga in sixth place, behind Sevilla on goal difference, and two points ahead of Osasuna.
“Today, we took an important step toward believing that we are going to be in the top part of the standings come season's end,” said Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini, whose club spent around ¤60 million ($80 dollars) on transfers in the offseason with the goal of competing in Europe next year.
Also, defender Alvaro Gonzalez's stoppage-time header snatched Racing Santander a 1-1 draw at Athletic Bilbao, keeping his team undefeated in two games since the departure of coach Hector Cuper.
Getafe remained undefeated in its last six home games as it edged Granada 1-0 thanks to Javier Casquero's 78th-minute strike from outside the area.
Sporting Gijon won 3-1 at Rayo Vallecano on an early goal by David Barral followed by Nacho Novo's double.
Ten-man Real Sociedad drew 1-1 at Villarreal to extend its unbeaten run to four games, and Mallorca got its first away win of the season as it beat last-place Zaragoza 1-0.
Barcelona overcame an early goal to beat Real Madrid 3-1 on Saturday to move top of the table. Barcelona is ahead of its fierce rival on goal difference, although Madrid has a game in hand.
Also, Levante edged Sevilla 1-0 to pull to within one-point of third-place Valencia, which lost 2-1 at Real Betis after two stoppage-time goals by Ruben Castro.