Real Madrid beat Elche 2-0 at the Estadio Manuel Martínez Valero to go four points clear at the top of La Liga after Barcelona's shock loss at home to Malaga yesterday.
Real were made to earn the three points against a dogged Elche but second half goals from Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo were enough to secure the win for Carlo Ancelotti's side.
Real started on the front foot and went close on four minutes when Edu Albacar handed possession to Karim Benzema in a dangerous area and the Frenchman found Cristiano Ronaldo who tried to curl his shot beyond Przemyslaw Tyton but it hit the outside of the post and went wide.
Real's dominance continued against a nervy looking Elche side and they went close again on eleven minutes when Gareth Bale got the end of an Isco cross but Tyton made the save from close range and Ronaldo was ruled offside when the rebound came to him.
Ronaldo was next to test Tyton from distance after good link up play with Isco but the Pole was able to comfortably save the Portuguese stars effort.
Real were taking the game to Elche and Ronaldo had another chance minutes later when Marcelo's cross found him at the back post but he was unable to direct his volley goalwards and another opening went begging.
The Portuguese superstar missed a real sitter on nineteen minutes when Gareth Bale got behind the Elche defence and with the goal at his mercy Ronaldo somehow managed to play the ball backwards instead of tapping into an empty goal.
Ronaldo had yet another chance on twenty-five minutes when Real won a free kick on the right wing after Albacar fouled Bale. Kroos took the free kick and Ronaldo met it with a free header on the edge of the six yard box but he failed to hit the target.
Real thought they had took the lead in the thirty-ninth minute when Isco released Bale down the right and his cross was met by Benzema with a sensational overhead kick that beat Tyton but the goal was ruled out for offside. The replay showed that Benzema was being played onside by Damian Suarez and Real were right to be disappointed with the referee's decision.
Elche had their first opening just before half time when Mario Pasalic found himself in space and with a man over on his left hand side just outside the Real box. Pasalic decided to go himself but his shot was wild and it was an opportunity wasted by the hosts although they will have been delighted to go in at the break with the score at 0-0.
Elche made a positive start to the second half and forced a good save from Iker Casillas in the opening minutes. Aaron found himself in a lot of space in the right side of the penalty box and hit a low shot across goal which Casillas got down to turn around the post. Casillas done well to turn it wide as Jonathas was lurking in the six yard box waiting for any rebounds.
Elche were lucky to keep eleven players on the pitch a few minutes later when Bale was taken down by Aaron. It was a horrible challenge from Aaron but the referee gave him a yellow when a red may have been more appropriate.
The Real players looked to have a little more fire in their bellies after that foul and they almost took the lead shortly after when the ball fell to Isco on the edge of the box. The Spanish international wrong footed the goalkeeper but his shot was off target and Elche escaped once again.
Real did take the lead on fifty-six minutes and Elche will consider themselves extremely unlucky to have conceded in the circumstances. Ronaldo was released down the left and put an excellent ball into the box. Lomban got there ahead of Benzema but his clearance hit off Tyton and the ball rebounded to Benzema on the goal line for the easiest of finishes. Real were well worth the lead on the balance of play but Elche will have felt hard done by after a resolute defensive display.
Real should have doubled their lead on sixty-eight minutes when Ronaldo missed another glorious chance. He played a sublime pass to Bale who beat the defender before putting a low hard cross into Ronaldo who was off target from two yards. Ronaldo did get his goal a minute later after some excellent work from Isco. The Spaniard beat Suarez down the left wing before crossing and Ronaldo was left completely unmarked in the middle and put his header into the top corner to all but seal the three points for Real.
Ronaldo almost got his second of the game minutes later when Enzo Roco fouled him just outside the penalty area. Ronaldo dusted himself off and took the free kick himself but his well struck effort when wide of Tyton's right hand post. Toni Kroos was the next to go close for Real when Elche cleared a cross from Benzema but the ball fell to the German just outside the box. He tried to curl his shot beyond Tyton but he made a bad contact and the ball went high and wide.
Real were able to take the sting out of the remainder of the game and seal a comfortable 2-0 win. Real fully deserved their win after what was a dominant display but Ancelotti may be slightly concerned by the missed chances. Earlier in the season Real were converting dominance to the score line and this really could have finished five or six if the finishing had been better.
Elche can also take some positives from the defeat. They stuck to Real for fifty-six minutes and made things difficult for the European champions. They are four points above the relegation zone but if they can keep up the level of effort they showed tonight they have every chance of maintaining their top flight status.