Real Madrid extended their LaLiga lead to four points as Cristiano Ronaldo’s 39th career hat-trick destroyed city rivals Atletico Madrid.
Ronaldo has often been criticised for his performances this season but he moved his goal tally into double figures as Real made it 29 games unbeaten with an emphatic 3-0 win at the Estadio Vicente Calderon.
Atletico are the last team to beat Real in the league – 1-0 at the Bernabeu in February – but they were outplayed for large periods as Zinedine Zidane’s side took advantage of Barcelona’s goalless home draw against Malaga earlier in the day.
Ronaldo got the ball rolling when his 23rd-minute free-kick beat Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak with the help of a deflection.
The goal may yet be credited to Raphael Varane, although it will remain with Ronaldo if it was deemed to have struck Atletico defender Stefan Savic, but there was no stopping Real’s Portuguese talisman.
Ronaldo both won and converted a 71st-minute penalty, and he then eclipsed Alfredo Di Stefano’s 17-goal Madrid derby mark when he swept home Gareth Bale’s superb cross.
Diego Simeone’s Atletico, who only briefly threatened at the start of each half, are now nine points adrift of Real having lost three of their last four league games.
Barcelona had failed to take advantage of their earlier kick-off against Malaga to go top of the table for a few hours at least.
Lionel Messi was absent at the Nou Camp after he contracted a vomiting bug and Barcelona lacked their usual cutting edge without the Argentina superstar.
Luis Suarez was also suspended as Barcelona drew a blank in front of goal for the first time this season.
The champions came closest to breaking the deadlock when Paco Alcacer and Gerard Pique saw their efforts disallowed for offside.
Pique also saw a strong penalty appeal waved away after he was hauled down in the box and Malaga goalkeeper Carlos Kameni was in fine form.
Kameni made an excellent stop from Neymar deep into injury time as Malaga ended the contest with nine men.
Diego Llorente was dismissed 20 minutes from time for felling Neymar in full flight and Juankar was sent off in the final seconds as Malaga protested for the final whistle to be blown.
Real Sociedad moved up to fifth in LaLiga on Sunday evening thanks to a 3-1 win away to Sporting Gijon.
Eusebio Sacristan’s men have won five of their last six matches and are now behind fourth-placed Villarreal on goal difference alone.
Real’s third goal was the pick of the four scored in the match at El Molinon, Inigo Martinez’s wickedly curling free-kick from 30 metres out beating Sporting goalkeeper Pichu Cuellar with the aid of a post.
Xabi Prieto and David Zurutuza were Sociedad’s other goalscorers, with Duje Cop levelling for Sporting before the break. The Asturians have now lost seven of their last nine matches, sit third from bottom and travel to face league leaders Real Madrid next weekend.
Real Sociedad’s Basque rivals Athletic Bilbao climbed a place to seventh by beating Villarreal 1-0 at San Mames.
Raul Garcia was on hand to bury a rebound midway through the second period after an Aritz Aduriz shot was blocked by Villarreal goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo.
A lifeless first half gave way to an energetic second period in Bilbao, where Inaki Williams also struck a post for the home side.
Valencia’s winless run stretched to four matches as they were held 1-1 at home by bottom side Granada.
The visitors, who have not won any of their 12 matches so far, were ahead at the break through a goal from Mehdi Carcela-Gonzalez, but Portuguese forward Nani levelled for Los Che two minutes into the second half.
The result left Cesare Prandelli’s side in 15th place.
In the day’s other game, Espanyol extended their unbeaten run to six matches. Gerard Moreno, who had earlier had a penalty saved, scored the only goal to beat Alaves.
Eibar moved above Celta Vigo and into seventh spot with a 1-0 victory over their Galician visitors on Saturday.
Fran Rico’s ninth-minute strike – his second of the season – was enough to give Eibar the three points.
Disappointing Celta created little and ended the game with nine men after Sergio Alvarez and Hugo Mallo were sent off in stoppage time.
Gabriel Mercado was the hugely controversial match-winner for Sevilla as they came from 2-0 down to beat Deportivo La Coruna 3-2 at the Estadio Riazor.
Goals from Ryan Babel and Florin Andone put the hosts in command, but Steven Nzonzi halved the deficit just before half-time.
Mercado could arguably have been red-carded for shoving Andone to the ground with a quarter of an hour to go, but then popped up with the winner in injury time after Vitolo had drawn the visitors level.
Victor Sanchez’s reign as Real Betis manager got off to a winning start with a 2-0 victory at home to Las Palmas.
The former Olympiacos and Deportivo la Coruna boss replaced Gus Poyet, who was sacked during the international break after back-to-back defeats saw them drop to within two points of the relegation zone.
The change was justified as goals from Bruno and Aissa Mandi brought only their second home win of the season.