Real Madrid CF took a sizeable step towards a 32nd league crown after completing a 2-1 victory against FC Barcelona to move seven points clear of their title rivals at the Liga summit.
It was a supremely industrious performance from José Mourinho's side, while Barça failed to impose themselves with their customary passing style. Set-pieces proved a profitable avenue for the visitors, who took the lead on 17 minutes from Ángel Di María's corner when Pepe's header was repelled by Víctor Valdés and Sami Khedira pounced to score.
Barcelona improved after the interval and restored parity through substitute Alexis Sánchez (70). Adriano's darting drive ricocheted into the patch of the Chilean international, who finished at the second attempt.
However, Madrid restored their lead within three minutes, Mesut Özil playing in Cristiano Ronaldo with a threaded pass that the Portuguese forward dispatched with a crafted finish. Thereafter the hosts, who were beaten 1-0 by Chelsea FC in the UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg last week, struggled to penetrate their opponents' rearguard and a first home defeat of the season represented a serious setback to their hopes of retaining the title.
"It wasn't easy winning here but it was a fantastic game and we're thrilled to take the three points," said Iker Casillas. "It's a huge step towards the title but we're not champions yet."
Elsewhere RCD Mallorca edged a 1-0 win against relegation-threatened Real Zaragoza, who are now level on 31 points with Real Sporting de Gijón, 2-1 winners against Rayo Vallecano de Madrid. Sevilla FC host Levante UD in the late fixture.
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|Last updated: 24/04/2012 18:12 CET|
|Sporting Gijón||2-1||Rayo Vallecano|
|Venue: Palma de Mallorca|
|1||Real Madrid CF||34||88|
|9||Club Atlético de Madrid||33||45|
|13||Real Betis Balompié||33||42|
|14||Rayo Vallecano de Madrid||34||40|
|15||Real Sociedad de Fútbol||33||39|
|19||Real Sporting de Gijón||34||31|
|20||Real Racing Club||33||26|