BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo scored his Spanish league-leading 25th goal to give Real Madrid a lackluster 1-0 win at Malaga on Saturday, when the pacesetters extended their unbeaten run to 30 matches in all competitions.
Diego Costa made sure Atletico Madrid stayed within three points of its crosstown rivals by scoring his 22nd league goal of the season in a 1-0 win at home over Espanyol.
Ronaldo netted the winner in the 23rd minute, and a tired-looking Madrid team was fortunate Malaga failed to muster a comeback after pushing the visitors into their area for the final 10 minutes.
Third-place Barcelona will enter Sunday's match against Osasuna seven points behind Madrid in the league standings. The two powerhouses are set to clash in the Spanish capital next weekend.
Madrid's win was tarnished by the loss of Karim Benzema to a right thigh injury after colliding with Ronaldo in the first half.
"We suffered, above all in the second half," Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso said. "They pressed us and it was tough for us to move the ball. These are three important points. There are 10 games left and we have to play each one like it's the last."
Elsewhere, Rayo Vallecano beat Almeria 3-1 to provisionally escape the relegation zone with a third consecutive victory, while Celta Vigo earned an entertaining 1-0 win at Levante.
The opening stage of the match at La Rosaleda Stadium was a vibrant back-and-forth exchange before Ronaldo put Madrid ahead with a wonderful solo effort.
He appeared to be hemmed in by two defenders on the edge of the area, but he took three touches to his right and lashed a bouncing strike beyond goalkeeper Willy Caballero. Ronaldo's goal gave him 39 goals from 36 games in all competitions this season.
Ronaldo went close again twice, first being blocked by Caballero and then sending Gareth Bale's lobbed pass into the side netting before he ran into Benzema.
Benzema was treated on the sideline by team doctors before he replaced by Angel Di Maria in the 31st.