Real fight back, Malaga leapfrog Levante
Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice as Real Madrid marked Jose Mourinho's 100th match in charge by opening up a 13-point lead with a 3-2 win over Real Betis. But it was a tough night for Mourinho's men who had to come from behind before they could celebrate a 21st victory in 22 games.
Jorge Molina scored after nine minutes for Betis before Gonzalo Higuain drew Real level. La Liga's top scorer Ronaldo then put Real ahead after the break. Betis refused to roll over, though, and Jefferson Montero equalised before Ronaldo secured the win with his 32nd goal of the season after 72 minutes.
Nearest chasers Barcelona will look to reduce the deficit on Sunday when they play away to Racing Santander.
Meanwhile, Malaga leapfrogged Levante into fourth place with a Jose Rondon header giving them a 1-0 victory over the modest side from Valencia. Levante have been a major surprise this season as they are more used to fighting around the lower reaches of the league. But they have now been overtaken by Malaga who have been bank rolled by Qatari ownership and spent heavily on new players last summer.
Malaga dominated the opening stages of the game, but lacked a cutting edge while Levante could have stolen a lead on the counter-attack by Abdelkader Ghezzal.
After the break, chances began to appear at either end and Joaquin Sanchez had a strike well saved by the keeper before shortly afterwards he laid on the pass from a free-kick for Rondon to head the ball into the corner after 51 minutes. Aroune Kone, went within inches of equalising with a toe poke past the keeper but Malaga should have extended their lead through excellent openings for Rondon and Isco Alarcon.
At the other end of the table, bottom side Zaragoza's problems increased as they were beaten 3-0 by Real Sociedad but Sporting Gijon moved to within three points of safety with a 1-0 victory over Sevilla.