Real Madrid CF closed the gap at the top of the Primera División to just three points with a resounding 4-1 home win against champions Valencia CF tonight.
Madrid made light of the difficult conditions and were always in control, but were only 1-0 in front at half-time as Ronaldo burst on to a perceptive through ball from Zinedine Zidane to open the scoring.
However, it looked like Madrid might pay for their failure to convert more of their chances when Robert Ayala headed Valencia level eight minutes into the second half, but the visitors then had Pablo Aimar dismissed for two bookable offences and Madrid took control once more.
Zidane restored the home side’s lead in the 68th minute and, with Valencia pushing forward, goals from substitutes Guti and Javier Portillo in the last five minutes gave the scoreline a one-sided look.
Earlier, leaders Real Sociedad extended their unbeaten run but were held to a 2-2 draw by Málaga CF. Real took the lead with a Nihat Kahveci free-kick after only eight minutes, but they were pegged back 12 minutes later when Kizito Musampa saw his shot deflected into the net.
Real restored their lead almost immediately, as an attempted clearance from Málaga goalkeeper Pedro Contreras struck Dmitri Khokhlov on the back and rebounded into the net. Dario Silva's turn and shot then drew the visitors level once more, and they held on for a point despite the late dismissal of Marcelo Romero.
Club Atlético de Madrid’s recent slump in form continued as they were beaten 4-3 at Villarreal CF in a thrilling game. The home side took a commanding lead just before the half-hour with two quick goals from Unai and Martín Palermo, but Atlético fought back almost immediately, and drew level with goals from Fernando Torres and Santi. However, Víctor restored Villarreal's lead on the stroke of half-time and, although the second period was a quieter affair, Palermo’s second two minutes from time meant Torres’s last-gasp strike was little consolation.
Another team on the slide are RCD Mallorca, who suffered a heavy 3-0 defeat at Sevilla FC. The match was played in Cadiz, as Sevilla are banned from their own ground after crowd trouble in October's derby game with Real Betis Balompié. Goals from José Antonio Reyes and two from Mariano Toedtli meant Sevilla responded well to the change of scenery.
Barcelona climb the table
FC Barcelona, meanwhile, continue to improve, as they defeated bottom side RC Recreativo de Huelva 3-0. Fabio Rochemback gave the home side the lead after nine minutes, before Patrick Kluivert’s cross-shot was deflected into the net off Loren in the 26th minute. Recreativo lost defender Nelson Zelaya to a red card after he fouled Kluivert in the area in the 51st minute, but Xavi Hernández’s penalty hit the post before Philip Cocu’s goal ten minutes from time sealed all three points.
Finally, Deportivo Alavés inflicted a first defeat on new RCD Espanyol coach Javier Clemente with a 2-1 home victory. Espanyol took the lead through Savo Milosevic, but Alavés rallied and a Jordi Cruyff volley and an Antonio Soldevilla own goal turned the game around.
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