Bale runs riot in Real Madrid rout as Byrne opens his account in Holland
Gareth Bale doubled his La Liga tally for the season in one afternoon, scoring four goals as Real Madrid ruthlessly thrashed nine-man Rayo Vallecano 10-2 at the Bernabeu yesterday.
The pressure appeared to be building on boss Rafael Benitez early on when the hosts trailed 2-1 against a side sitting in the relegation zone.
But Roman Triguero and Raul Baena were both dismissed for Rayo in the opening half hour, after which Real scored at will to move within two points of Barcelona.
Karim Benzema scored a hat-trick while Cristiano Ronaldo bagged a brace and Danilo added one, but Real missed out on their record victory - which remains an 11-1 victory over Barcelona in the 1940s.
In Italy, Fiorentina sit just behind Serie A leaders Inter Milan heading into the winter break after beating Chievo 2-0.
Paulo Sousa's men were briefly dislodged from second place by resurgent Juventus, who beat Carpi yesterday, but they wasted no time forcing their way back into title contention with goals from Nikola Kalinic and Josip Ilicic.
The margin of victory might have been greater had Chievo goalkeeper Albano Bizzarri not pulled off a succession of fine stops to ensure his Gialloblu colleagues were not roundly trounced at the Stadio Artemio Franchi.
Gonzalo Higuain's brace helped Napoli to a 3-1 win over Atalanta and back up to third in Serie A.
The Argentina striker now leads the scoring charts with 16 goals and Marek Hamsik's penalty ensured Maurizio Sarri's side took all three points at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia.
Jorginho's sending off gave hope to the hosts, whose goal came from Alejandro Gomez, but it could have been worse had Hamsik netted a second spot-kick after Gabriel Paletta was shown red late on.
Juventus maintained their charge up the table with a 3-2 victory at Carpi with goals from Mario Mandzukic (two) and Paul Pogba.
Leaders Inter were beaten 2-1 at home to Lazio as Antonio Candreva struck a second goal in the 87th minute to snatch victory for the visitors late on.
In Germany, Bayern Munich made it a record-breaking first half of the season with a 1-0 Bundesliga win over Hannover giving them an eight-point advantage to enjoy during the winter break.
A Thomas Muller penalty ensured Bayern ended the year with the best record ever of a side over the first 17 games of a season.
It means Bayern, who get the second half of the season started at Hamburg on January 22, remain firmly on course for a fourth straight Bundesliga title.
Bayern were able to increase their advantage at the top of the standings by three points since Borussia Dortmund threw away the lead to lose 2-1 at a spirited Cologne.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos' opener was not added to by Thomas Tuchel's men and they paid the price with Simon Zoller and Anthony Modeste turning the tables late on.
Meanwhile, Ireland U-21 international Jack Byrne became Dutch side Cambuur's youngest ever goal scorer in Eredivisie.
The midfielder, who is on loan from Manchester City, scored in the 4-1 victory at Excelsior yesterday.
Byrne put in a man-of-the-match display in which he racked up a 94.6pc pass completion - the highest of any player on the pitch.
The Dubliner thought he had scored his first goal for Cambuur last week from a free-kick but it was eventually ruled as an own goal.