Clinical Atletico remain on top

Clinical Atletico remain on top

Atletico Madrid stayed firmly on course for a surprise La Liga title triumph when Raul Garcia's header secured a 1-0 win for the leaders at home to seventh-placed Villarreal on Saturday.

Atletico were missing top scorer Diego Costa and playmaker Arda Turan through injury but dispatched Villarreal with an efficient, if unspectacular, performance in front of their boisterous fans enjoying the club's best campaign since they last won Spain's domestic league in 1996.

Garcia nodded in a Koke corner in the 14th minute at a packed Calderon and the home side comfortably soaked up sustained Villarreal pressure in the second half to move on to 79 points from 32 of 38 matches, three more than their tally from last season when they finished third.

They are four ahead of second-placed champs Barcelona, who host bottom side Real Betis later on Saturday.

Real Madrid are two points behind Barca in third ahead of their game at sixth-placed Real Sociedad.

Atletico's Argentine coach Diego Simeone has transformed the team into genuine contenders in Spain and Europe since taking over at the end of 2011 despite the club having about a fifth of the resources of wealthier rivals Barca and Real, the world's richest clubs by income.

Bayern lose

Champions Bayern Munich on Saturday suffered their first league defeat in 18 months when they slumped to a 1-0 loss at Augsburg courtesy of Sascha Moelders' first half strike.

The Bavarians, who clinched this season's title in record time with seven games left in the campaign, had not lost in the Bundesliga since their 2-1 defeat to Bayer Leverkusen in October 2012.

Augsburg got off to a stronger start and shocked the visitors with Moelders, starting instead of striker Raul Bobadilla, drilling in on the half hour after Mitchell Weiser lost possession in the Bayern half.

With Bayern coach Pep Guardiola fielding a second string team and resting key players ahead of next week's Champions League quarterfinal second leg against Manchester United, the champions had trouble finding their rhythm.

Augsburg successfully soaked up the Bayern pressure and even hit the post in the final minute for a memorable victory.