Atletico's title hopes take a hit

Atletico Madrid's La Liga title challenge took a nosedive when they slumped to a shock 3-0 defeat at Osasuna on Sunday, leaving Real Madrid three points clear at the top.

Champions Barcelona and Real were held to draws at Osasuna's El Sadar stadium earlier in the season and Atletico fell behind in the sixth minute when Alvaro Cejudo arrived unmarked at the back post to volley a corner into the net.

An error by fullback Juanfran allowed Emiliano Armenteros space to score with a long-range drive in the 21st minute and Roberto Torres nodded a third goal three minutes before the break. It was the first time Atletico conceded three goals in the first half since Argentine coach Diego Simeone took over at the end of 2011.

Simeone left several regulars out of his starting lineup before bringing on playmakers Koke and Arda Turan and attacking midfielder Raul Garcia in the second half.

Atletico forward Diego Costa, who has 21 goals in La Liga this season, toiled up front but a typically gritty defensive performance from Osasuna kept him at bay as they climbed to 12th on 29 points.

"When your opponent is superior all you can do is congratulate them and Osasuna played very well today," Simeone said. "The second half was better from our side but we couldn't find the goal that would have put us back in the match."

Atletico's defeat in Pamplona came after Barcelona lost 3-1 at fifth-placed Real Sociedad on Saturday. Barca, chasing a fifth title in six years, and Atletico have 60 points with the Catalan giants ahead on goal difference.

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