Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 300th Real Madrid goal as the European champions remained four points adrift of La Liga leaders Barcelona with a 2-0 win against Rayo Vallecano de Madrid on Wednesday.
Earlier, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez were on target as Barcelona eased past UD Almeria 4-0.
Barca took more than half an hour to make the breakthrough, but Messi did so in style as he curled home his 44th goal of the season into the far corner.
Suarez made the game safe when he fired into the top corner 10 minutes after the break and bagged his second of the evening in stoppage-time after Marc Bartra headed home the third from a Xavi corner.
“It is the stage of the season where we have a lot to play for,” Suarez said.
“We ought to show our personality, because we are Barcelona. In the league we depend on ourselves and we need to continue in this vein,” he added.
Madrid suffered a much more uncomfortable evening in a capital derby before Ronaldo and James Rodriguez struck midway through the second half.
Rayo dominated the first period in terms of possession, but it was still Real who had the better chances as Rodriguez shot straight at Diego Cobeno when unmarked inside the area, before Ronaldo headed over from the Colombian’s free-kick.
At the other end, Iker Casillas made a fine save to keep the visitors level at the break as he parried Roberto Trashorras’ back-post header to safety.
Madrid started much stronger after the break and were centimeters away from an opener when a Gareth Bale header from Rodriguez’s cross looped just wide.
There was then a huge moment of controversy when Ronaldo was booked despite appearing to be clearly brought down by Antonio Amaya inside the area, meaning he will miss tomorrow’s visit by Sociedad Deportiva Eibar to the Santiago Bernabeu.
The chances continued to come and go for Real as Benzema, Marcelo and Bale fired just off target in a matter of minutes, and the goal finally arrived when a fine run and cross from Dani Carvajal picked out Ronaldo as he sealed his triple century of goals for Madrid in just 288 games.
Six minutes later it was 2-0 as Ronaldo turned provider this time for Rodriguez to curl home his first goal since returning from a two-month layoff with a foot injury.
Barcelona also started slowly at the Camp Nou as boss Luis Enrique made six changes with one eye on tomorrow’s tough trip to play Sevilla.
However, Messi opened the scoring in brilliant fashion when he found space on the edge of the area and curled into the far corner with pinpoint accuracy.
Suarez made sure of Barca’s 20th win in their past 21 games in all competitions with a little help from Julian Cuesta as the goalkeeper got a hand to the Uruguayan’s powerful effort, but could not keep it out.
A consistent feature of that run has been Barcelona’s sudden ability to score from set-pieces and they did so for the third consecutive game 15 minutes from time when Bartra rose highest to power home Xavi’s in-swinging delivery.
Suarez was gifted his second when Pedro Rodriguez unselfishly picked out the former Liverpool man to roll into an empty net.
At the other end of the table RC Deportivo de La Coruna sacked manager Victor Fernandez after Cordoba ended a 10-game losing streak with a 1-1 draw against los Brancoazuis at the Riazor.
Granada’s survival hopes also suffered a huge blew as Theo Bongonda struck a 93rd-minute equalizer for RC Celta de Vigo to secure a 1-1 draw at the Estadio Nuevo Los Carmenes.
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