Barcelona squandered a two-goal advantage to draw 2-2 at Villarreal on Sunday as Real Madrid thrashed Sevilla 4-0 to close the gap on the La Liga leaders.
Ivan Rakitic’s half-volley and a classy ‘Panenka’ penalty from Neymar had given Luis Enrique’s side a comfortable lead before half-time.
But Villarreal fought back after the break, Cedric Bakambu halving the deficit before Jeremy Mathieu knocked the ball into his own net just moments after coming on as a substitute.
Despite failing to win for the first time in 13 league games, Barca increased their lead over nearest challengers Atletico Madrid at the top of the table to nine points after the Rojiblancos lost 2-1 at Sporting Gijon, while Villarreal remain fourth, picking up a first point in three games.
Cristiano Ronaldo scored and missed a penalty as Real Madrid cut the gap to Atletico to a single point by thrashing Sevilla 4-0 at the Bernabeu, although the scoreline did not fairly reflect the balance of play.
Kevin Gameiro missed a spot kick in the first half with the score at 1-0 and then had an equalising goal ruled out in the second half, just after Ronaldo had missed the target from 12 yards.
Karim Benzema had given Madrid the lead after just six minutes and Ronaldo finally doubled the hosts’ advantage midway through the second half before Gareth Bale and substitute Jese completed the rout.
Madrid remain third in the table and 10 points behind Barca, who they face in their next league game in a fortnight’s time at the Nou Camp, while Sevilla slip down to sixth place.
Late goals from John Guidetti and Hugo Mallo gave Celta Vigo a 2-0 win at hapless Valencia to pile more misery on coach Gary Neville, who was the subject of angry chants by the Mestalla crowd.
The result sees the Galicians move into the top six, boosting their chances of playing European football next season.
Valencia, meanwhile, were dealt a further blow after exiting the Europa League on away goals on Thursday and lie 14th in the table, six points off the relegation zone.
Elsewhere, goals from Pape Diop and substitute Felipe Caicedo saw Espanyol come from behind to beat Athletic Bilbao 2-1 and move seven points clear of the danger zone.
Javier Eraso had given the Basques the lead after 20 minutes by following up his shot on the rebound after Pau Lopez had parried.