Real Madrid coach Juande Ramos confessed Barcelona were playing better than his side, but said he didn’t care after the champions stayed in the title race with a 2-0 home win over Valladolid on Sunday.
Real were unconvincing winners as goals from Raul and Arjen Robben helped the capital side close back to within six points of leaders Barcelona.
“It is easier to win playing well than playing badly,” Ramos said. “However, sometimes you can’t play well and that was the case today. The priority was getting the points.
Valladolid had beaten Real 1-0 earlier in the season, when Bernd Schuster was at the helm, but under Ramos Real are much-improved.
England international David Beckham, now on loan at AC Milan, was one of the spectators at the Santiago Bernabeu cheering his old club on from the stands.
Sergio Ramos was suspended so Miguel Torres deputized at right back, but apart from that Real were at full strength and fresh after no midweek Champions League distraction.
However, Real were flat in the opening 25 minutes and only a great piece of skill from Gonzalo Higuain — a drag back and turn — earned applause from the home fans.
Along with French midfielder Lass Diarra, Higuain was Real’s standout performer and made the opening goal close to halftime, chipping the ball between two defenders and crossing for Raul to tap in.
Robben showed great control to score the second nine minutes from time, although Valladolid were furious as they felt they should have been awarded a penalty seconds before following a foul by Pepe.
“It was a penalty,” Valladolid coach Jose Luis Mendilibar said. “The people who saw it on the television told us it was a penalty and I have no doubt it was.”
Elsewhere, third-placed Sevilla fell to a surprise 1-0 home defeat against Getafe.
Jaime Gavilan’s 82nd-minute strike won the game for Getafe, who move four points clear of the drop zone.
Despite the loss, Sevilla are still in pole position for the Champions League as they hold an eight-point advantage over Valencia, who they play next week at the Mestalla.
Valencia climbed above Villarreal into fourth with a 3-2 win at Sporting Gijon on Sunday.
David Villa put Valencia 2-1 up from the penalty spot, but didn’t celebrate the goal out of respect for former club Gijon where he started his distinguished career back in 2000 and his parents were watching from the stands.
“I wasn’t as nervous as I expected,” Villa said. “I am sure they [Villa’s parents] were more nervous because it was the first time that they have seen me at El Molinon not wearing a Sporting shirt.”
Sporting Gijon equalized, but Juan Mata, recently capped by Spain, hit the winner late on.
Atletico Madrid boosted their Champions League aspirations, triumphing 2-1 at rivals Deportivo La Coruna courtesy of goals from Sergio “Kun” Aguero and Simao. Atletico are three points behind Valencia, as are promoted Malaga.