Real Madrid 3 Almeria 0: James wonderstrike lights up victory
Real Madrid kept up the pressure on Barcelona as they moved back to within two points of the Liga leaders with a 3-0 victory over Almeria on Wednesday.
After Barca's comprehensive 6-0 win over Getafe 24 hours earlier, the pressure was on for Carlo Ancelotti's side and they ultimately claimed three points with ease despite a lacklustre first-half showing.
While title rivals Barca netted five in the opening 45 minutes on Tuesday, Real took time to break through - James Rodriguez registering his club's 100th goal of the season with a stunning volley just before half-time.
The lead was doubled after 48 minutes when Mauro dos Santos turned a low cross into his own net and Alvaro Arbeloa added a third late on.
Ancelotti opted against introducing 16-year-old Martin Odegaard, the Norwegian wonderkid made to wait for his first-team debut as he remained an unused substitute.
A typically fast start from Real saw them go close three times in the opening exchanges, with Cristiano Ronaldo unsurprisingly at the heart of everything.
The first chance fell to James, though, the Colombian ghosting into the penalty area to meet Arbeloa's right-wing cross, but failing to divert his header on target.
Ronaldo's personal battle with Ruben in the Almeria goal then began as the forward made a rampaging run towards goal and saw his low shot saved by the goalkeeper's legs, before heading over from the resulting corner.
Some Almeria pressure followed but just before the half-hour the Ronaldo show restarted, the Ballon D'Or winner going close with two long-range free kicks - the first rippling the top of Ruben's net.
The deadlock was finally broken on the brink of half-time as poor defending saw the ball bounce into the path of James, who unleashed a stunning volley from 20 yards that gave Ruben no chance.
Although Real had to wait for their opening goal, the second came quickly after the restart as Toni Kroos was released behind the Almeria defence. His low cross was inadvertently turned into the net by Dos Santos, with Ronaldo waiting behind.
Almeria again showed plenty of spirit to try and threaten Keylor Navas, but Raphael Varane was agonisingly close to adding a third midway through the second half as he headed a Kroos corner wide.
Javier Hernandez also spurned an opportunity to extend Real's advantage, poking wide at the near post from a pinpoint Ronaldo cross after 73 minutes.
The hosts still finished on a high, though, as Arbeloa stretched to convert a low ball in from Hernandez with five minutes to play, adding gloss to a victory that ensures the title race remains wide open.