Cristiano Ronaldo scored four goals to take his season's tally to 33 as Real Madrid crushed Sevilla 6-2 to keep their slim hopes of beating Barcelona to the La Liga title alive. The gap at the top of the table is now down to five points, but after Barcelona play Espanyol in the Catalan derby tomorrow, there will only be three games to play.
Real faced Sevilla on the back of a tumultuous double header with Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League semi-final where they were beaten by their bitter rivals. Looking to restore pride, coach Jose Mourinho played a full strength side against a Sevilla team.
Frenchman Karim Benzema missed a glaring chance early on, but finally the Real pressure told as Sergio Ramos headed home a corner. Ronaldo extended the lead after bringing down a pass from Pepe and firing past the goalkeeper before Kaka hit a third as Real dominated.
In the second half Sevilla threatened a comeback with an Alvaro Negredo goal before Ronaldo struck three more times to take his league tally to 33 goals, two more than Barcelona's Lionel Messi. Negredo wrapped up the scoring with what was only a consolation for Sevilla.
Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola anticipated that it would be his side that would need to win the title rather than getting a helping hand from Real. "I don't expect us to win the league just yet," he said. "There are four games to go, we have a lot of respect for Espanyol and it doesn't bother me how Real Madrid get on. Our preparation and line-up will be the same however they do.
"We will try and win the league in the next few days though, and it would be a shame if we got distracted from our task at this stage, but looking at the way they have been training, I don't think it is very likely. Espanyol always make it difficult for us and so it is important that the fans get behind the team."
Valencia near third-place finish
Valencia boosted their hopes of finishing third with a 3-0 win over Real Sociedad. After back-to-back defeats, Valencia needed a victory since Villarreal, who play Mallorca on Sunday, are closely breathing down their necks. Roberto Soldado scored twice and Jonas Goncalves found the back of the net in between.
"It is true that at the start of the season we were only thinking of finishing fourth, but situations change and now we are playing for third," said Valencia coach Unai Emery. "Still in the second half we dropped our level and did not show the same intensity and in this sense we need to improve."
Goals for Getafe at the beginning of either half from Adrian Colunga and Pedro Rios brought an end to Almeria's survival dream in a 2-0 win. It was only Getafe's third victory this year and took them out of the relegation zone.
Hercules' future is also looking bleak as they are now six points from safety following a 3-2 defeat at home by Racing Santander. Giovani dos Santos twice put Racing ahead, but Hercules battled back through Sendoa Aguirre and Tiago Gomes. Then, in first-half stoppage time, Henrique Buss restored Racing's advantage to give them all three points.
Athletic Bilbao moved up to fifth in the table with a 3-2 win over Levante. The Basque side built up a commanding lead through Gaizka Toquero, David Lopez, with a penalty, and Fernando Llorente, before Levante battled back through Christian Stuani and Nano Rivas.
Europe chasing Atletico Madrid crashed 3-0 at home against a rejuvenated Malaga. The Andalusian club recorded their fourth successive win with goals from Jose Rondon, Julio Baptista and Enzo Maresca.
Two penalties earned Sporting Gijon a 2-2 draw against Deportivo La Coruna. Twice Deportivo went ahead through goals by Adrian Lopez, but spot-kicks from Ayoze Garcia and David Barral gave the home side a share of the points.