Ronaldo’s brace rescues Madrid
Goalkeeper Iker Casillas came off the bench for 10-man Real 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 Espanyol.
Barcelona, whose goals all came in the first-half against their city neighbours, remain 16 points clear of their bitter rivals and 11 ahead of second-place Atletico Madrid, who were held by Mallorca 1-1 later on Sunday.
Madrid captain 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 was to grab a hat-trick, scored from the spot-kick to equalise 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 given a second yellow card.
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 coach Tito Vilanova back after cancer surgery.
Vilanova chose to play Andres Iniesta in his three-man attack and leave Alexis Sanchez and David Villa on the bench against Espanyol who were unbeaten in four games under new coach Javier Aguirre.
Iniesta crossed for an unmarked Xavi to put Barca ahead after 10 minutes and Cesc Fabregas pulled the ball back for Pedro to score from close range.
Pedro produced a neat finish to beat Casilla midway through the first half and then Messi struck from the penalty spot after Fabregas was felled by the keeper.AFP