Rayo Valecano: 0
Real Madrid: 2 (Cristiano Ronaldo 68′, James Rodríguez 73′)
Madrid: Cristiano Ronaldo headed his 300th goal for Real Madrid in an easy 2-0 La Liga victory at neighbours Rayo Vallecano on Wednesday that kept the gap to leaders Barcelona down to four points with eight games left.
Fresh from thrashing Granada 9-1 at the weekend, when Ronaldo hit five, Real needed a win at Rayo’s Vallecas stadium after Barca strolled to a 4-0 home win over Almeria to open a seven-point advantage over their arch-rivals.
In-form Luis Suarez scored twice and Lionel Messi ended a three-game goal drought, with Marc Bartra also getting on the scoresheet at the Nou Camp.
Real struggled to exert any control over lowly Rayo and missed a host of chances before Ronaldo netted his 37th La Liga goal of the campaign with a header from Dani Carvajal’s cross in the 68th minute.
The prolific Portugal forward, who is five clear of Messi at the top of the scoring chart, is the third player after Raul (323) and Alfredo Di Stefano (307) to reach 300 goals for Real, but has needed only 288 matches, compared with Raul’s 741 and Di Stefano’s 396.
James Rodriguez made it 2-0 with a sharp finish from Ronaldo’s layoff six minutes later to leave Real on 70 points, five ahead of third-placed champions Atletico Madrid, who won 2-0 at home to Real Sociedad on Tuesday.
After edging to a 1-0 win at Celta Vigo on Sunday, Barca dominated Almeria at the Nou Camp to record their 20th victory in 22 matches this year in all competitions.
Messi, who had not netted since his double against Eibar three weeks ago, opened the scoring in the 33rd minute when he skipped in from the right wing and whipped a left-foot effort inside the far post.
Almeria, who are third from bottom, defended doggedly but conceded again when Suarez netted an almost identical goal 10 minutes into the second half.
Centre back Bartra, one of several second-choice players coach Luis Enrique deployed, added a third when he nodded in a Xavi corner with 15 minutes left and Pedro set up Suarez to make it 4-0 in stoppage-time.
“We know that if we don`t stay focussed in the league we will not get the three points,” Suarez said in an interview with Spanish television.
“We have our fate in our own hands and we have to keep playing the same way,” added the 28-year-old, who netted the winner in last month`s 2-1 `Clasico` victory at home to Real.
Barca have a chance of repeating 2009`s historic treble under Pep Guardiola, the only time a Spanish side has won the domestic league and Cup and Champions League in the same season.
They are through to the last eight of Europe`s elite club competition to face Paris St Germain and play Athletic Bilbao in the King`s Cup final at the end of May.
Real were drawn to play Atletico in the Champions League quarter-finals, a repeat of last year`s final which Real won 4-1 after extra time.