Atletico Madrid kept the pressure on Barcelona at the top of the Spanish Liga yesterday with a 4-0 home slaughter of Sevilla, which finished the game with nine men.

Atletico now has 34 points, three less than Barca, which made short work of sixth-placed Levante with a 4-0 victory. Leo Messi scored the first two for Barcelona, Andres Iniesta added the third, and Cesc Fabregas also got on the scoreboard.

Barca is 11 points ahead of third-placed Real Madrid, which crashed 1-0 at fifth-placed Betis on Saturday.

Things started to go wrong for Sevilla in Madrid in the 24th minute, when defender Federico Fazio was sent off for pulling down youngster Koke. Radamel Falcao made it 1-0 from the resultant penalty.

The visitors' bad luck continued when Emir Spahic made it 2-0 with a clumsy own goal. Then Koke - one of Spanish soccer's brightest prospects - added a third after a good run by Diego Costa.

Sevilla was reduced to nine men just eight minutes from time, when Croatian midfielder Ivan Rakitic was sent off for a needless foul. Defender Joao Miranda then made it 4-0 after a mistake by Sevilla's veteran keeper Andres Palop.

The comfortable win will leave Atletico in good heart ahead of Saturday's derby against Real, which it hasn't beaten since 1999.

Earlier yesterday, Deportivo Coruna managed to battle out a valuable 1-1 draw away to Athletic Bilbao - a result that leaves the side just above the Spanish relegation zone.

Bilbao, which is 14th, went ahead in the 25th minute when Spain midfielder Markel Susaeta set up Oscar de Lopez to score with a left-foot drive.

Spain striker Fernando Llorente made his first start of the season for Bilbao - after trying to leave the club in August - and three times came close to making it 2-0 for the host.

But Colombian midfielder Abel Aguilar made it 1-1 for Deportivo 10 minutes into the second half, against the run of play, by heading in a center from veteran playmaker Juan Valeron. The visitors then had their work cut out keeping Llorente and company from taking the lead again.

Deportivo coach Jose Oltra said: "I am satisfied with the point we have gained but also with the attitude of my boys today. Everyone worked hard for the cause, with a good spirit."

Deportivo is now fourth from bottom with 11 points - the same as Galician rival Celta Vigo. Then comes Granada, also on 11, Osasuna on 10 and Espanyol rock bottom on nine.

Also yesterday, Espanyol crashed 2-0 at home to lively Getafe, on goals from Pedro Leon and Mane.

The latest defeat increased the pressure on Espanyol coach Mauricio Pochettino, who said: "I am not a coward and I will not run away." The Argentine coach added: "Given that we're bottom of the table, I understand the jeers and boos of the fans. But we need stability and unity to get out of this situation."