Madrid:Cristiano Ronaldo spoilt a stellar two-goal display by getting sent off for a stray elbow as Real Madrid closed to within five points of league leaders Barcelona with a 2-0 win over Malaga at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday.
It was all going swimmingly for Ronaldo who had ended a run of three games without a goal with a quick-fire brace (35th and 39th minutes) to take his season's tally to nine but his volatile temperament surfaced again on 70 minutes.
Ronaldo elbowed defender Patrick Mtiliga as he tugged the former Manchester United man's shirt and the referee had no hesitation in reaching for the red card.
"Cristiano (Ronaldo) showed how he can make the difference with his two goals," said defender Sergio Ramos. "I was a bit far away from the incident so I will have to watch it again on the television."
It was a second dismissal of the season for Ronaldo who was sent off in a 4-2 win over Almeria on December 5 for kicking out at an opponent.
While Ronaldo's sending off put a dampener on the win, Real will be relieved to bounce back from their Athletic Bilbao defeat with a 10th successive home win to close to within five points of Barcelona.
"It was important to win so we can stay in touch (with Barcelona) and we will keep on fighting as five points is not too much," added Ramos.
Barcelona beat Valladolid 3-0 on Saturday to go unbeaten for the first half of the season although no Spanish team has gone a whole 38-game season undefeated.
Guti, 33, made his first league start for Real since September after healing his rift with coach Manuel Pellegrini and even had the captain's armband with Raul on the bench.
With eight minutes gone Malaga rattled the crossbar when Sergio Duda's cross came off Xabi Alonso's head and looped onto the bar.
Iker Casillas had a hairy moment near the half hour mark with the goalkeeper bizarrely using his head to block a chipped shot as he was outside of the area.
Ronaldo then took centre stage with two goals in four destructive minutes.
Guti, Karim Benzema and Kaka all combined quickly to put the ball on a plate for Ronaldo to roll home the 35th minute opener.
Malaga then witnessed Ronaldo in full flow as he collected Guti's pass before firing a fierce shot into the corner.
Malaga had previously gone 10 games unbeaten in league, although eight of them were draws, but they knew there was no comeback this time around.
In the second half Ronaldo was gunning for his first ever Real hat-trick but instead the red mist descended again and his night ended on 70 minutes when he elbowed Mtiliga in the face.
Getafe came out on top in the local derby with Atletico Madrid defeating their 10-man neighbours 1-0 on Sunday to move four points off the Champions League spots.
Since winning promotion in 2004, Getafe had never beaten local rivals Atletico in the league at their Coliseum Alfonso Perez home but Manu del Moral's 38th minute goal ended that sequence.
For Atletico, who had midfielder Paulo Assuncao sent off, it brought an end to a run of three successive league victories and they are now ten points off the top six.
Both Atletico and Getafe are in Kings Cup action on Thursday as they bid to reach the semi-finals of the competition.
Earlier Valencia missed the chance to keep pace with the top two following a frustrating 0-0 draw at promoted Tenerife on Sunday.
"We weren't at our best today," said Valencia coach Unai Emery. "However, we are in a great position in the league and have to keep on going."
Valencia sit five points ahead of Real Mallorca, who reclaimed fourth spot with a 1-1 draw at Espanyol on Sunday.
In other matches, Villarreal got back to winning ways with a 4-2 victory over struggling Real Zaragoza at El Madrigal.
Despite the win Villarreal are still down in ninth, seven points off the desired European places.