Spanish La Liga Roundup, Dec. 19
Angel Di Maria's late goal gave 10-man Real Madrid a 1-0 win over Sevilla to stay two points behind Spanish league leader Barcelona on Sunday.
The Argentina winger threaded a shot from a tight angle on the left flank past goalkeeper Andres Palop in the 76th minute just as a scoreless draw seemed to be the most likely outcome.
Sevilla striker Alvaro Negredo caused problems for his former club's defense throughout, and drew two yellow cards from defender Ricardo Carvalho to leave Madrid with 10 men from the 63rd minute.
"We knew it was going to be a difficult game, and after the dismissal (of Carvalho) it was even tougher," said Di Maria, who had scored five goals this season. "It was a good-looking goal, but the important thing is that it gave us the win."
Madrid has won all eight matches this season at Bernabeu stadium, while 11th-place Sevilla has now lost five straight games.
Without forward Frederic Kanoute and wingers Jesus Navas and Diego Perotti due to injury, Sevilla turned to Negredo and Luis Fabiano in attack. Real Madrid had defender Sergio Ramos returning from injury, but Xabi Alonso's absence was noticed in the middle of the pitch.
Madrid threatened early with the speed of Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo's long-distant shots on goal.
Ronaldo blasted a free kick that Palop came close to spilling five minutes in. Madrid striker Karim Benzema drew Palop out of the area but his pass to Ronaldo, who would have had an open goal, was cut out by the Sevilla defense.
Sevilla responded by sending long balls to Negredo, who had his team's first clear chance to score in the 23rd.
Two minutes later, Sevilla defender Julien Escude headed a corner from Diego Capel just wide of goalkeeper Iker Casilla's post.
Sevilla pressed forward and Madrid center back Pepe had to scramble to rob Negredo near the area and clear a dangerous rebound in the area before the half ended.
Luis Fabiano put Negredo through in the 53rd, but the Spanish striker sent his shot well over the crossbar in Sevilla's best chance to score.
Madrid tired in attack and lost its composure when Carvalho was sent off. The tension grew in the stands until Di Maria appeared to claim the three points for his team.
"I have a team from another world and with a character from another world," Madrid coach Jose Mourinho said. "Today, without important players, to get three points, I could not be happier with my team."
Sevilla's Mouhamadou was shown a red card in injury time.
Earlier, Tiago scored twice and set up another goal in Atletico Madrid's 3-0 win over Malaga, and Getafe rallied from a two-goal deficit to beat Almeria 3-2.
Atletico's goals were all similar. Tiago scored both from free kicks by Simao Sabrosa and he then assisted on another of Simao's free kicks to set up defender Alvaro Dominguez's goal.
Atletico coach Quique Sanchez Flores left striker Diego Forlan on the bench to reinforce his midfield, a move that paid off in the 22nd when Tiago rose up to head home Simao's curling cross.
Tiago flicked on a free kick for Dominguez to head in Atletico's second in the 66th. Three minutes later, the former Juventus midfielder slid unmarked into the area to again head in another free kick from the Atletico captain to seal the win.
"For them (Malaga), it is difficult to play from behind and we played a good defensive game," Sanchez Flores said as his Atletico rose to sixth place and within two points of the Champions League positions. Malaga, which rarely threatened David de Gea's goal, remains in the relegation zone.
Getafe's fourth straight win is a club record in the top division and lifts the team into seventh place on 26 points.
Almeria was on top early with strikers Kalu Uche and Jose Ulloa scoring in the opening 30 minutes, but Getafe captain Manuel del Moral and striker Nicolas Fedor pulled the visitors even.
Getafe midfielder Derek Boateng deftly backheeled in a cross from Del Moral in the 70th to cap the comeback.
"If someone said at halftime Getafe was going to win, you wouldn't have believed them," said coach Jose Luis Oltra, whose Almeria remained winless at home and one place above the relegation zone.
Also, Osasuna was held to a scoreless draw by last-place Zaragoza.
On Saturday, Barcelona routed Espanyol 5-1, and Villarreal remained third with 33 points after beating Mallorca 3-1. Also, Valencia's 2-1 win over Real Sociedad moved it into fourth place with 28 points, ahead of Espanyol on goal difference.
Racing Santander plays Hercules on Monday.