Madrid: Real Madrid beat Real Sociedad 5-1 to restore their six-point lead over Barcelona at the top of La Liga.
Two goals each from Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema, and one from Gonzalo Higuain yesterday, gave the home team a comfortable victory with Xavi Prieto grabbing a consolation for the team from San Sebastian. Ronaldo`s brace put him level with Lionel Messi on 35 league goals after the Argentine and Gerard Pique scored earlier in Barcelona`s 2-0 win at Mallorca, the champions` seventh successive league win.
The result will come as a relief to Jose Mourinho`s Real who had dropped four points in two 1-1 draws with Malaga and Villarreal, scorelines which had helped Barcelona eat into a lead that stood at an imposing 10 points a week ago.
However, Madrid showed no sign of nerves and with an attacking side, employing all their firepower, were clinical in front of goal. It took the leaders only five minutes to go ahead when Higuain neatly struck home a first time pass from Benzema.
On 25 minutes, Ronaldo finished after Kaka had put the Portuguese star clear with a defence-splitting pass.
Five minutes before the break a long, raking pass out of defence from Xabi Alonso was perfectly controlled by Benzema before he chipped the oncoming Claudio Bravo in the Sociedad goal for Madrid`s third.
Prieto got one back just before the break but within three minutes of the restart Madrid were back in control when Benzema struck his second of the night. On 55 minutes Ronaldo got the fifth when he arrived at the far post to finish a left-wing cross from Kaka and Sociedad were staring a huge defeat in the face.
However, the Basques found some defensive composure and began to resist the lightning quick attacks of Madrid to stem the tide for the remainder of the match.
Earlier Messi`s opener for Barca was initially awarded to Alexis Sanchez before it was adjudged that the Chilean had not got a touch to the Argentinian`s free-kick.
Barcelona had to play out the final 34 minutes a man down after Thiago Alcantara was red-carded but they still did enough to make it seven successive victories in the league.
"We`ve achieved an important victory that allows us to prepare well for the Champions League game against Milan next week," said Barca coach Pep Guardiola.
Barcelona were the better team and dominated possession throughout.
Their first chance came on 12 minutes when Dudu Aouate in the Mallorca goal came out to block a shot from Messi at close range. On 25 minutes Barca went ahead when Messi floated a free-kick over the Mallorca defence. Sanchez appeared to have got the slightest of glances to steer the ball past Aouate but the goal was later given to Messi.
Barca continued to dominate and it was Sanchez again who thumped a shot onto the crossbar on 33 minutes before trying his luck from distance just before the break.
After a quiet start to the second-half the evening suddenly became complicated for Barcelona on 56 minutes when Thiago was sent-off for a second yellow card after the referee harshly deemed the midfielder had used his arm to control the ball.
Barcelona looked to kill the game with their passing game.
Pedro Rodriguez teed-up Messi, who shot just wide from 10 yards, before Pique wrapped the game up with 12 minutes remaining when he reacted quickest after a Messi shot hit the post. (AFP)