Barcelona, Spain, Oct 24: Levante moved to the top of the Spanish league standings for the first time ever after beating Villarreal 3-0 for its sixth consecutive win on Sunday.
The modest club, which has the smallest budget in Spain's first division, extended its record start to move one point ahead of Real Madrid and two points ahead of defending champion Barcelona.
Forward Juanlu Gomez scored twice before halftime at El Madrigal stadium, and striker Arouna Kone added another after the restart as Levante repeatedly caught Villarreal flatfooted on the counterattack.
Defender Sergio Ballesteros cleared Giuseppe Rossi's late shot off his goalline to ensure Levante kept a fifth clean sheet of the season.
The undefeated Levante, which two seasons ago played in the second division, had little trouble adding the lackluster Villarreal to its list of victims that includes Madrid and big-spending Malaga.
Earlier, Roberto Soldado's late goal salvaged a 1-1 draw for Valencia against Athletic Bilbao, while Atletico Madrid drew 1-1 with Mallorca.
After an evenly matched first half with both teams hitting the post, Iker Muniain scored Bilbao's 72nd-minute opener when he deftly dribbled across the edge of the area before shooting powerfully into the right corner of the net.
Bilbao appeared set to record its third straight league win before Soldado reached Ever Banega's pass, beat goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz with one touch and rolled home the equalizer in the 89th for his sixth goal of the season.
“Just when we were playing at our best they scored, but we didn't give up and we were able to pull out the draw,” Soldado said.
The game saw Valencia midfielder Sergio Canales and Bilbao veteran Carlos Gurpegi both helped off the pitch with leg injuries.
At Vicente Calderon stadium, visitor Mallorca went ahead two minutes in through Israel striker Tomer Hemed's fourth spot kick in the last three matches.
Radamel Falcao pulled Atletico even with a penalty of his own in the 42nd after he was fouled in the area to end a three-game scoring drought for his team in league play.
“It wasn't in our plans to draw today,” said Atletico coach Gregorio Manzano, whose team extended its winless streak to four league games. “It was a tough game for us. We were facing a well-organized defense that left us very few spaces.”
It was Mallorca's second consecutive draw since coach Joaquin Caparros took over following the stormy departure of Michael Laudrup.
Also, Osasuna beat Zaragoza 3-0, Rayo Vallecano scored twice late to down Real Betis 2-0 and Getafe drew 0-0 at Real Sociedad.
Osasuna needed half an hour to decide the contest at Reyno de Navarra stadium.
Raul Garcia set Osasuna on its way to its first win in six games in the 18th before flicking on a throw-in for Juan “Nino” Martinez to finish off nine minutes later.
Iran midfielder Javad Nekounam put the victory beyond doubt in the 30th when he headed in Nino's cross.
In Sevilla, Betis failed to convert a number of scoring chances, and Rayo's Lass Bangoura capped his strong performance in the 80th minute when he coolly chipped Betis goalkeeper Casto Barriga.
“Lass is a player who is giving his all for this team and adapting very well,” said Rayo coach Jose Sandoval about the 19-year-old Guinean winger.
Sergio Contreras then sealed Betis' fourth straight loss in the 88th from the penalty spot.
Barcelona was held to a 0-0 draw by Sevilla on Saturday, letting Madrid slip one point ahead after Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat trick in its 4-0 win at big-spending Malaga.
Sporting Gijon also beat Granada 2-0 for its first win of the season, while Sergio Garcia's second-half goal dropped winless Racing Santander into last place as Espanyol won 1-0 for its second straight away victory.