Real Madrid CF beat Rayo Vallecano 3-1 at the Santiago Bernabéu to move three points clear at the top of the Primera División, while Diego Tristán struck a hat-trick as RC Deportivo La Coruña roared back to form with a 5-0 win over RCD Mallorca.
Madrid were lucky with their first goal on ten minutes as a long-range drive from Roberto Carlos struck a defender, then a post and finally rebounded in off goalkeeper Imanol Etxeberría. Fernando Morientes made it 2-0 six minutes before half-time, the Spain striker tucking the ball in after Zinedine Zidane and Raúl González had combined well to set him clear on goal.
Rayo improved after the break but never seriously threatened a comeback and substitute Luis Figo, returning from an ankle injury, scored a third from the penalty spot shortly after coming on. The visitors got a consolation goal two minutes from time as Jean Francois Hernández headed in a corner.
Madrid, who will look to overturn a 2-1 deficit against FC Bayern München in the second leg of their UEFA Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday, moved three points clear of Valencia CF, who are at home to Real Sociedad on Sunday.
Deportivo, who also face an uphill task in Europe this week after losing the home leg of their quarter-final with Manchester United FC 2-0, clearly had their wits about them ahead of their trip to Old Trafford as Tristán scored three times in 13 minutes against a below-par Mallorca side.
Tristán struck his first on 21 minutes, taking advantage of a mistake by Mallorca's defence, and then chipped the goalkeeper for his second eight minutes later. The Spanish international completed a hat-trick against his former club with eleven minutes to go in the first half and Deportivo completed an excellent win with goals from midfield players Victor Sánchez and Sergio González.
Two for Saviola
FC Barcelona rediscovered their touch with a hard-fought 2-0 victory at Athletic Club Bilbao. Javier Saviola put the Catalan side ahead on 18 minutes, heading in from the far post after Philippe Christanval had nodded on a Rivaldo corner. Bilbao had most of the possession after that, but Saviola made the game safe with his second 13 minutes from time, the Argentinian racing clear on the counterattack to produce a confident finish. UD Las Palmas beat Real Zaragoza 1-0 in the late game in Spain.
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