MADRID (AP) Striker Lucas Perez scored a goal in each half to help Deportivo La Coruna defeat Espanyol 3-0 and move closer to the leaders in the Spanish league on Sunday.

Deportivo went ahead with an own goal by Espanyol defender Alvaro Gonzalez in the 14th minute, and Perez made it 2-0 after a fast breakaway in the 27th and added a third from inside the area in the 49th. They were Perez's third and fourth goals this season, leaving him only one behind league leaders Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo.

It was Deportivo's third win in six matches, enough to keep it within range of first-place Villarreal and the rest of the teams crowding the top of the table at the start of the season.

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''We needed this victory for the fans and to keep the team headed in the right direction,'' Perez said. ''We fought hard from the start and we are happy with the result.''

Villarreal has 16 points, one more than Barcelona and two more than Real Madrid and Celta Vigo. Atletico Madrid has 12 points in fifth place, only one point more than Deportivo in sixth.

Three teams have nine points each after the sixth round: Eibar, Valencia and ninth-placed Espanyol, which could have moved to fifth had it won Sunday's match in La Coruna.

The top-three title contenders were coming off surprising setbacks, opening the way for more teams to stay near the lead. On Saturday, Atletico Madrid lost 1-0 at Villarreal, while Real Madrid was held by visitors Malaga to a scoreless draw. Barcelona, which lost Lionel Messi because of an injury in its 2-1 home win over Las Palmas on Saturday, had been beaten 4-1 by Celta Vigo in the previous round.

Espanyol played with 10 men from the 79th at the Riazor Stadium on Sunday after Senegalese defensive midfielder Papakouli Diop was shown a second yellow card. Nearly 22,000 witnessed Deportivo's first home win of the season.

Also Sunday, Real Betis moved to eight points by coming from behind to earn a 2-1 win at Sporting Gijon.

In the late matches, Getafe defeated Levante 3-0 at home, while Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao played to a 0-0 draw in the Basque derby.

In the next round, leader Villarreal plays at winless Levante, while Real Madrid goes to city rival Atletico Madrid. Barcelona will be at Sevilla for its first league game without Messi, who will miss about two months because of a left knee injury.

Barcelona, Real Madrid, Valencia, Sevilla and Atletico Madrid have Champions League games this week.

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