MADRID, March 3 (Xinhua) -- Real Madrid and BBVA Primera Liga leaders both won on Spain's matchday 26 to maintain their personal duel at the top of the league table.
Barcelona had opened up a 10 point lead with their 1-0 win in Valencia on Wednesday night, but 24 hours later Madrid enjoyed an easy triumph over a struggling Malaga to leave the gap at seven points once again.
The return of former Madrid coach Manuel Pellegrini to the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium was the big talking point of the game, but it soon became clear that the game itself was going to be straightforward for the home side.
Despite Madrid coach Jose Mourinho's recent complaints about the fixture calendar, Malaga had two days less to prepare the game than Madrid and looked sluggish on the pitch.
Karim Benzema opened the score just before the half hour and Angel Di Maria doubled Madrid's lead after a horrible error from the Malaga defense, before Marcelo Vieira finished off a team move to make it 3-0 before the break.
Cristiano Ronaldo scored his first goal in almost 500 minutes to make it 4-0 shortly after the break. Benzema added his second with a header and Ronaldo scored from the penalty spot after an action that also saw Malaga's Manuel Gaspar sent off.
They were down to nine minutes later when Cala left the pitch injured with no substitutes to bring on an after 76 minutes Cristiano Ronaldo completed his hat-trick to make it 7-0. He then immediately left the pitch raising worries that he could have picked up an injury.
Thursday also saw Almeria draw 1-1 at home to Racing Santander despite playing against 10 men for 75 minutes following the sending off of Racing defender Henrique Buss.
Despite being down to 10 men, Gustavo Colsa put Racing ahead before the break, before Albert Crusat equalized after 64 minutes. Almeria remain bottom of the table.
Wednesday night saw Leo Messi score a 77th minute goal as Barcelona won 1-0 away to third placed Valencia.
Messi's goal was the only difference between the two sides in a fast and physical game, although Barca will argue that they did create the best chances of the night.
The three points from the Mestalla stadium should give Barca a huge morale boost as Valencia was considered as one of the grounds where they could drop points and where Real Madrid have still to visit.
As things stand the Catalans have only dropped two points away from home all season.
Villarreal returned to winning ways thanks to Giuseppe Rossi's 21st minute goal at home to Hercules. The result strengthens Villarreal grip on a top four finish, while Hercules slip to fourth from bottom of the table and are suddenly in a fight to avoid relegation.
Getafe and Atletico Madrid drew 1-1 in their Madrid derby in a result that edges both sides closed to Europe.
Manu del Moral's third minute goal looked to have given Getafe the points, but Elias Mendes scored nine minutes from time to assure a share of the points. It was the Brazilian's first goal since signing for Atletico during the winter transfer window.
Zaragoza fought back from conceding an early goal to claim a 2-1 win at home to Athletic Club Bilbao. Fernando Llorente's fifteenth goal of the season put Athletic ahead after 18 minutes, but goals from Jiri Jarosik and Ikchuwku Uche in a five minute spell at the start of the second half turned the game around and lift Zaragoza out of the bottom three.
Real Sociedad and Levante drew 1-1 in another good result for the visiting side as they continue to climb away from the relegation zone.
David Zurutuza scored early in the second half for the home side, before defender Asier del Horno equalized with a powerful left foot shot 13 minutes from time.
Finally Osasuna and Deportivo la Coruna produced a 0-0 draw which helps neither side in their battle to avoid relegation.
Tuesday's games saw Sevilla beat Sporting Gijon 3-0. Luis Fabiano, Diego Perotti and Alvaro Negredo gave Sevilla a comfortable win after Sporting midfielder Sebastian Eguren was sent off before the first goal
Finally Mallorca produced another fightback, beating Espanyol 2-1. Young striker Alvaro Vazquez put Espanyol in front after 18 minutes, but Pierre Webo scored a powerful header after 62 minutes and then Emilio Nsue sealed the points from close range with eight minutes remaining.