Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice but was later sent off for the second time in his Real Madrid career as Madrid beat Malaga 2-0 to close the gap to Barcelona to five points.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side needed to bounce back from defeat by Athletic Madrid last weekend and respond to Barcelona’s comfortable 3-0 victory at Real Valladolid on Saturday, but they struggled to break down their visitors for the opening 35 minutes.
However, Guti and Ronaldo then stepped up to carve out two goals within four minutes, firstly with Guti and Karim Benzema combining to release Kaká down the right and Ronaldo sweeping in the Brazilian’s low cross.
Guti’s promptings again bore fruit when his slick pass found Ronaldo and the Portuguese rifled in a swerving strike from 20 metres. An under-strength Málaga rarely threatened thereafter, although their prospects of mounting a comeback were enhanced when Ronaldo was sent off for the second time this season following an incident involving Patrick Mtiliga.
Elsewhere, third-placed Valencia are now ten points off the lead after being held to a goalless draw at third-bottom enerife, while Manu slid in to score the only goal against his former team Atletico Madrid as Getafe rose to seventh – their best ever position at the halfway point of the season.
Xerez remain bottom following a 2-1 home lose to Osasuna, with Real Zaragoza still only a place better off after they lost 4-2 at Villarreal.