BARCELONA - Cristiano Ronaldo scored a long-range goal worthy of the awarded Ballon d'Or to spark Real Madrid's 5-0 rout at Real Betis, provisionally lifting his team level with the leaders of the Spanish league on Saturday.
Ronaldo netted one of his signature free kicks in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday to celebrate being named the world player of the year, and he topped that with a 25-metre blast taken on the run in the 10th minute in Seville.
Gareth Bale followed Ronaldo's rocket with a delicately placed free kick in the 25th for his first goal since November 30, leaving the hosts demoralised and in tatters at the back.
Karim Benzema, Angel Di Maria and Alvaro Morata all scored before the demolition of bottom-side Betis was over.
Barcelona and Atletico Madrid can both regain their advantage over Madrid when they play matches today.
"Everything went our way," Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said. "It was an important opportunity to reach the top of the table. At least we can sleep well tonight."
Betis was left eight points from safety just past the league's midway mark after Elche earned its first win in six rounds by beating 10-man Rayo Vallecano 2-0 at home.
Entering the match on a 12-round winless streak and showing no improvement since Juan Carlos Garrido replaced Pepe Mel as its coach, Betis desperately needed to repeat its 1-0 win over Madrid from last season. But Madrid dominated possession from the start, and the talent of Ronaldo and company soon crushed any hopes of an upset.
"I understand that people are not happy with my contribution so far," said Garrido, who has yet to guide Betis to a win in five rounds and has seen his new team eliminated from the Copa del Rey.
"We haven't been able to change a situation that was already negative. I'm not happy, that is evident. We have to hang in there and work to turn this around."