Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas came off the bench for a 10-man Madrid who needed a second-half double from Cristiano Ronaldo to beat Real Sociedad 4-3, while leaders Barcelona cruised to a 4-0 win over RCD Espanyol.
Barcelona remain 16 points clear of their bitter rivals and 11 ahead of second-place Atletico Madrid, who drew 1-1 with RCD Mallorca.
Casillas was left out for the second consecutive game, but was called upon after just five minutes following a penalty conceded by his replacement, Adan Garrido, who was red-carded. Xabi Prieto, who grabbed a hat-trick, scored from the spot-kick to equalize after Karim Benzema had put Madrid ahead in the second minute, with Sami Khedira then restoring the lead for Jose Mourinho’s side after 35 minutes.
Prieto struck again before half-time before Ronaldo came to the rescue with a brace after the restart. Prieto hit his third with 14 minutes to go, but Sociedad also finished with 10 men as Daniel Estrada was sent off.
After the game, Mourinho said he was unconcerned about receiving abuse from the crowd.
“Perfect. Let them whistle [at] me before the match and then support the team as they are doing. I think the whistles are for leaving Casillas out and also because we are not achieving our aims in the championship,” he said.
“There are others who didn’t applaud and are not happy with his [Casillas’] performances. If I am not doing well it is normal that they whistle and it is something you have to live with. I don’t want to be a hero independently of my performances,” he added.
Madrid got the perfect start with Khedira finding Benzema in space in the center of the penalty area and the Frenchman scoring with a clinical finish.
However, only three minutes later Adan conceded the penalty for the visitors to draw level.
His poor pass to Ricardo Carvalho went to Carlos Vela, who bore down on goal and was upended by the shot-stopper. The referee pointed to the spot and also dismissed Adan.
Casillas was unable to make a perfect start as Prieto fired home the penalty.
Madrid went back ahead with Khedira flicking in a shot by Carvalho, but Prieto got his second when a Vela strike fell to him and he drove the ball home. After the break the game hit a lull before Ronaldo responded with a double.
Sociedad did not give up, with Xabi Prieto latching onto a Chory Castro pass before beating Casillas, but their hopes of an equalizer were hit by a red card for Estrada.
At the Camp Nou, Pedro Rodriguez hit a double with Xavi Hernandez and Lionel Messi also scoring in a rampant first half as Barca welcomed manager Tito Vilanova back after cancer surgery.
Vilanova chose to play Andres Iniesta in his three-man attack and left Alexis Sanchez and David Villa on the bench against Espanyol.
Iniesta crossed for an unmarked Xavi to put Barca ahead after 10 minutes before Cesc Fabregas pulled the ball back for Pedro to score from close range.
Pedro produced a neat finish to beat ’keeper Francisco Casilla midway through the first half, followed by a Messi strike from the penalty spot after Fabregas was felled by Casilla.