Real maintains dominace over Atletico

Spanish leader Real Madrid came from behind to beat nine-man Atletico Madrid 4-1 on Saturday to win its ninth straight league match and maintain a 12-year unbeaten run in the derby.

After Adrian Lopez had given the visitors a 15th-minute lead, Atletico goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was shown a straight red card for bringing Karim Benzema down inside the area. Cristiano Ronaldo converted the 24th-minute penalty.

Madrid winger Angel Di Maria marked his return from injury with a goal in the 49th, and substitute Gonzalo Higuain scored in the 65th.

Atletico defender Diego Godin was sent off for fouling Higuain, allowing Ronaldo to again score from a spot kick in the 82nd.

Barcelona has to win at Getafe later Saturday to stay within three points of Madrid, which has now won 13 straight across all competitions.

Madrid hasn’t lost to its crosstown rival since 1999, a sequence of 22 games in all competitions which includes seven straight victories.

”This is the way that everyone wants to keep playing, going game to game,” Madrid captain Iker Casillas said. ”It is a spectacular run, but now we have to think about our next rival.”

Atletico started well as midfielder Diego marked Xabi Alonso to limit his distribution from midfield, with Madrid’s attack floundering for much of the time until Courtois’ sending off.

Before that, Diego guided a through ball into the path of Adrian, who stayed onside to slot past Casillas and give the visitors an unlikely lead, especially with striker Radamel Falcao missing to injury.

Referee Antonio Miguel Mateu flashed a handful of yellow cards in the first half as tempers frayed, before Courtois lunged into the feet of Benzema to send the France striker tumbling for a decisive penalty that Ronaldo sent past substitute ‘keeper Sergio Asenjo.

”The team started well, but the dismissal and the penalty was a pity,” Adrian said. ”It was very tough. Later, after the second goal, the game got out of hand.”

Madrid fans had displayed a banner over Santiago Bernabeu stadium’s southern stands reading ”Bet Everything on White” due to the decade-plus invincibility, and Di Maria ensured another victory with an easy goal.

Asenjo was caught out as Ronaldo crossed into the middle to allow the Argentina forward to run onto the ball and drive a right-footed shot into the top of the goal.

Di Maria, who missed two games with a hamstring injury, came off in the 62nd for Higuain, who scored his 12th league goal after rounding Asenjo and a defender to roll the ball into the empty net.

Atletico was hanging on to avoid a rout and Godin brought Higuain down as the Argentina striker tried to burst through, compounding the visitor’s misery as Ronaldo slotted home his league-leading 16th goal and 20th of the campaign.

Earlier Saturday in southern Madrid, Valencia stayed in touch with the top two thanks to a 2-1 win at Rayo Vallecano.

Brazil striker Jonas put Valencia ahead in the 21st with his second goal in consecutive games.

Goalkeeper Diego Alves made a pair of saves to protect Valencia’s lead before Tino Costa finished off a counterattack with a strike from the edge of the area to secure the win in the 56th.

Substitute striker Raul Tamudo halved the deficit for Rayo in the 84th, but Valencia held on to trail Barcelona by one point and Madrid by seven.