BARCELONA, SPAIN – Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema scored to give Real Madrid a 2-0 win at Elche on Sunday, as the Spanish League leaders capitalized on Barcelona’s stumble to increase their advantage to four points.
Madrid grasped the opportunity Barcelona had presented it with after a 1-0 defeat at home to Malaga on Saturday.
Elche was fortunate to escape without conceding in a first half dominated by Madrid.
But Benzema tapped in a boggled clearance by Elche’s defense to make the breakthrough in the 56th, and Ronaldo ended a five-round scoring drought by heading in his 29th goal in the 69th.
“(Barcelona’s) loss surprised us all because they were playing very well,” said Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti. “This was an important game considering what happened yesterday so we could gain some distance. But this is going to go down to the last game of the season.”
Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas’ 500 Spanish League game was one of his most uneventful, as he was called upon just once against the outclassed hosts.
Casillas set a club record for the most wins by a Madrid player in the Spanish League with 328.
“I am thankful, this record is not easy to get being a Real Madrid player, maybe in another club it would have been easier,” said Casillas. “I never thought about reaching a certain number.”
While Madrid’s victory was not much of a surprise, Real Sociedad went from losing to winning a 4-3 shootout with Sevilla in a span of the final eight minutes.
Athletic Bilbao also needed a late strike from Aritz Aduriz with four minutes to play to edge Rayo Vallecano 1-0.
Villarreal, likewise, eked out a 1-0 win over visitors Eibar.
Mourinho lashes out
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho made a surprise appearance on a British soccer television show on Sunday, to query the standard of refereeing he has seen this season.
Mourinho, whose side drew 1-1 at home to Burnley on Saturday, was frustrated that referee Martin Atkinson sent off Nemanja Matic in the game for pushing Ashley Barnes after the Burnley striker’s aggressive challenge on him.
The Chelsea boss was furious with Barnes’ tackle insisting “the consequence for Matic could be end of career,” if Barnes had made stronger contact with the Blues midfielder.
“Another club would have the power to appeal Matic’s red card,” added Mourinho, who expects to be without the Serbian for the League Cup final against Tottenham next weekend.
Mourinho said that referee Atkinson “told me he didn’t have the chance to see it on TV.”
He also expressed his disappointment at a number of penalty decisions that have gone against his side this season and called for extra technology to be introduced “to protect the integrity of the referee.”