REAL MADRID overcame the early dismissal of Sergio Ramos to beat Rayo Vallecano at the Bernabeu last night.
Spain defender Ramos was shown a red card in the 18th minute after collecting two soft bookings in the space of 30 seconds.
The first came after he brushed past Roberto Trashorras with the Rayo player theatrically going to ground and the second for a handball after Jose Manuel Casado fired a cross against his arm from close range.
By the time he departed, Madrid were already 2-0 up. Alvaro Morata, on his first league start, tapped home Mesut Ozil's right-wing cross in the third minute and Ramos himself grabbed the second with a powerful header from Ozil's inswinging free-kick.
Rayo had plenty of the ball in the second half but could not find a way past Madrid goalkeeper Diego Lopez.
Madrid remain third, four points behind city rivals Atletico and 16 adrift of runaway leaders Barcelona.
Atletico were impressive 3-0 winners at Real Valladolid earlier in the evening.
Radamel Falcao's early opener was added to by Diego Costa, back in the side following a suspension, with Cristian Rodriguez adding a late third as Diego Simeone's men picked up their first away win since November 18.
Ten-man Valencia claimed an unlikely 2-0 win to add to struggling Real Mallorca's relegation worries, Ricardo Costa and Roberto Soldado with the goals.
Real Sociedad missed a chance to gain ground in their bid to qualify for the Europa League by failing to beat Levante in a 1-1 home draw.
Espanyol's remarkable revival under coach Javier Aguirre continued as a solitary Sergio Garcia goal earned the Catalan club a third consecutive league win.
Real Betis, though, are on the slide having failed to win in five attempts and Pepe Mel watched his charges struggle to create a handful of half-chances at the El Prat.
The hosts, who were perhaps unlucky not to win by a larger margin, climb to 12th in the table ahead of a daunting trip to Atletico.