Cristiano Ronaldo duels for the ball with Dani Alvesduring the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid at Camp Nou. Photo by David Ramos
Real Madrid stunned Barcelona on Saturday with a 2-1 win in the Camp Nou, a victory that virtually guarantees the whites the Spanish Liga title.
Real's first league defeat of Barca since 2008 came thanks to goals from Sami Khedira and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Alexis Sanchez scored for Barca but the Catalans never looked comfortable against hard-working opponents who battled aggressively for every ball.
The whites are now seven points above Barca with just four games left, and poised to reclaim the title which has been the possession of Lionel Messi and company since 2009.
In addition, Jose Mourinho's richly talented team - the most expensive in football history - have established a new record by scoring 109 goals. They still have the chance to finish with a record total of 100 points, if they win their last four games.
Khedira gave Real the lead in the 17th minute by poking the ball in after Barca keeper Victor Valdes had made a complete mess of clearing a corner.
Taking an early lead confirmed Mourinho in his counter-attacking strategy, defending in depth and hitting Barca on the break.
For once, the hosts lacked precision in their passing and penetration in attack.
Eighteen minutes from time, Alexis came on for weary playmaker Xavi and immediately made it 1-1 after Real keeper Iker Casillas had failed to hold a shot from Cristian Tello.
But Barca's relief was to be short-lived because just one minute later Ronaldo re-established their lead after rounding Valdes, following an incisive break master-minded by Mesut Oezil.
It was Ronaldo's 42nd league goal, a new record, and his 54th in all competitions, in what has been the most spectacular season of his formidable career.
It was the killer blow and Barca never looked capable of equalizing for a second time.
Earlier on Saturday, Sporting Gijon gave themselves some hope of avoiding relegation with a 2-1 home defeat of Rayo Vallecano.
Gaston Sangoy gave Gijon an early lead only for Mikel Labaka to level for Rayo.
However, supersub Mate Bilic won the game for the hosts 12 minutes from time with a classy free-kick, after Rayo had been reduced to 10 men due to the sending-off of Labaka.
The visitors finished the game with nine men, when Jose Casado followed Labaka for an early shower.
Gijon now share second-from-bottom place with Zaragoza, who crashed 1-0 at Mallorca on a solitary goal from Victor. Zaragoza seemed poised to pull off a miracle two weeks ago but are now back in massive trouble.
They are level on 31 points with Gijon, both of them five points above bottom team Racing Santander but five below Granada and Villarreal. -Sapa