By Richard Martin
BARCELONA (Reuters) - Barcelona's eight-game winning run was halted following a 2-2 draw with Valencia, Atletico Madrid lost 1-0 at Real Betis and a resurgent Real Madrid secured their fourth win in a row by beating Alaves 3-0.
Here are five talking points from the weekend in La Liga:
LATE BLOOMER GALLEGO GIVES HUESCA GLIMMER OF HOPE
A year ago Enric Gallego was playing for Extremadura in Spain's third tier, approaching the autumn of a respectable yet unglamorous career as a semi-professional striker.
On Friday, the 32-year-old struck his first goal in Spain's top flight, opening the scoring for new side Huesca in a 4-0 drubbing of Real Valladolid which gave La Liga's basement club a fighting chance of survival.
"He gives us things we didn't have before and which we need, that's why we made a huge effort to get him and we're delighted with him," said Huesca coach Francisco of Gallego, who also worked as a lorry driver and builder until the age of 27.
FAMILIAR COACH, FAMILIAR PROBLEMS FOR VILLARREAL
Desperate to avoid relegation, it was hardly surprising when Villarreal sacked manager Javi Calleja in December and replaced him with Luis Garcia Plaza.
But with results failing to improve under the new coach, the 2006 Champions League semi-finalists took the unusual step of re-hiring Calleja just 50 days after they had sacked him.
Yet they were soon given a reminder of why they had parted company with Calleja as Villarreal blew a 2-0 lead against Espanyol on Sunday to draw 2-2, leaving them second from bottom in the standings.
MORATA STRUGGLES TO EASE BURDEN ON GRIEZMANN
It is no secret that Atletico Madrid have become too reliant on talismanic forward Antoine Griezmann. Yet Alvaro Morata, a misfit at Chelsea who began his career at rivals Real Madrid, was an unexpected choice to share the goalscoring burden.
The Spaniard looked shorn of confidence in his debut against Real Betis, who handed Atletico their first league defeat in five months. The result left second-placed Atletico six points behind leaders Barcelona.
BALE UPSTAGED BY GLAMOUR OF VINICIUS
Gareth Bale returned following a month-long injury layoff on Sunday but it quickly became evident during the 3-0 win against Alaves that supporters have found a new hero.
While Bale received a smattering of boos as he struggled to get involved in the play and showed little desire to defend, Brazilian teenager Vinicius was given a standing ovation after effectively sealing victory by scoring the second goal.
MARCELINO'S MESSI PANIC EASED BY INJURY SCARE
Valencia were disciplined, intense and took their chances in a 2-2 draw at Barcelona. But that did not stop Lionel Messi from taking most of the plaudits after he netted twice to drag Barca back from two goals down.
The only thing that prevented Messi from orchestrating a Barca victory was an injury scare which required him to be treated on the pitch.
“There was one moment when I didn’t suffer, and that was when Messi was on the sideline," remarked Valencia coach Marcelino.
(Reporting by Richard Martin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)