Barcelona put pressure on Sevilla by beating Villarreal 2-0 to move temporarily at least to the top of the Spanish league on Sunday.

Sevilla trails Barcelona by two points before visiting Alaves later.

Injury-depleted Barcelona got goals from Gerard Pique and rarely used reserve player Carles Alena in each half at Camp Nou.

With the hosts missing striker Luis Suarez, France forward Ousmane Dembele led Barcelona with his speedy incursions from the right flank.

Dembele crossed for Pique to head in his 36th-minute opener. The defender sent the ball off the turf and past goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo, who got a hand on the ball but couldn’t keep it out.

FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi, right, duels for the ball with Villarreal's Santiago Pedraza during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between FC Barcelona and Villarreal at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
FC Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, right, duels for the ball with Villarreal’s Santiago Pedraza during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between FC Barcelona and Villarreal at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

Lionel Messi was the playmaker in the 87th for Alena, who had come on for Arturo Vidal.

Alena recovered the ball in midfield and laid the ball off to Messi. The Argentine returned it by meeting Alena’s run forward with a threaded pass through four defenders. The 20-year-old Alena completed the move with a fine finish by chipping the ball over the onrushing Asenjo.

Villarreal’s only clear scoring chance came early when Gerard Moreno hit the post after some lax defending by Clement Lenglet.

ATLETICO HELD

Villarreal's goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo, left, clears a ball during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between FC Barcelona and Villarreal at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
Villarreal’s goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo, left, clears a ball during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between FC Barcelona and Villarreal at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

Atletico Madrid needed a late own-goal to salvage a 1-1 draw at Girona as it recorded a fourth straight draw away from home in the league for Diego Simeone’s team.

Atletico remained in third place, three points behind Barcelona.

Girona striker Christian Stuani scored his league-leading 11th goal of the season by converting a spot kick just before halftime after being fouled by Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak. A video review awarded the penalty after the referee had initially ruled that the foul was outside the area.

Simeone sent on forwards Gelson Martins and Angel Correa to spark a comeback, and Correa came through when he recovered the ball and quickly sent a long ball forward to Diego Costa. Defender Jonas Ramalho tried to impede Costa from striking the ball, only to tap it into his own net in the 82nd.

FC Barcelona's Carlos Alena celebrates after scoring his side's second goal during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between FC Barcelona and Villarreal at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
FC Barcelona’s Carlos Alena celebrates after scoring his side’s second goal during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between FC Barcelona and Villarreal at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

Saul Niguez hit the crossbar for Atletico in the first half.

Girona lost goalkeeper Yassine Bounou to a leg injury midway through the second half, but replacement Gorka Iraizoz made a fingertip save to deny Niguez in the 77th.

Elsewhere, Real Betis beat Real Sociedad 1-0 thanks to a first-half goal by Junio Firpo.

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Source: The Associated Press

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