Barca and Real maintain gap

Referee Fernando Teixeira, right, shows the red card. (AFP)

Leaders Barcelona survived red cards for Gerard Pique and Rafael Marquez to complete a 2-1 victory over Getafe in La Liga on Saturday while Real Madrid kept pace with a 3-0 win at home to Espanyol.

Pique was sent off in the 25th minute for a wild challenge on Rafa Lopez. Marquez walked at the end after bundling over Kepa for a last-minute penalty scored by Roberto Soldado but the game was effectively over by then.

Lionel Messi opened the scoring in the seventh minute and Xavi netted in the 67th as Barca continued to create the clearer chances despite their numerical disadvantage. "You only manage this with commitment, a great deal of belief and by running a lot. The players have been marvellous," Barca coach Pep Guardiola told reporters. "We played a very good game and it was one of the best performances we've put in."

The unbeaten champions moved on to 55 points from 21 games, and remained five ahead of second-placed Real, who comfortably swept aside Espanyol. Sergio Ramos headed in from a free kick early on and Kaka doubled the lead after Carlos Kameni could only parry a Raul header in the 30th minute.

Gonzalo Higuain returned from injury to grab a third at the end. Earlier, Valencia spoiled Onesimo Sanchez's debut as Real Valladolid coach, winning 2-0 to stay third.

 

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