|Ronaldo's two goals soon cheered him up after a scoreless first half [AFP]
Goals from Alvaro Arbeloa and Cristiano Ronaldo gave Real Madrid a 3-0 win away at lowly Xerez to cut Barcelona's lead to two points at the top of the Spanish Primera Division.
Valencia drew 1-1 at Sporting Gijon after squandering a host of chances as they dropped 10 points behind Madrid, who went into the second half with the score at 0-0 in Saturday's late match.
But Arbeloa fired an individual opener before Ronaldo was set up twice by Kaka in three minutes to put bottom club Xerez deep in relegation trouble.
The Portuguese star was returning to the side following a two-match suspension.
At Gijon, Juan Mata equalised for the visitors late in the second half after Diego Castro put Sporting ahead in the sixth minute.
Undefeated Barca play at Atletico Madrid on Sunday and coach Pep Guardiola is expected to promote a youth team player with five first-team defenders injured or suspended.
Castro gave Gijon an early lead at the Molinon with a curled strike from the edge of the area.
Valencia then dominated the match but struggled to penetrate a determined Gijon defence.
David Villa, playing against his former club, brought a sharp save from goalkeeper Juan Pablo with a crisp, close-range volley and Carlos Marchena crashed a header against the goal frame just before the half hour.
Villa struck a low shot off the outside of a post in the 73rd before in-form midfielder Ever Banega played Mata through three minutes later for the Spain forward to fire past Pablo.
Gijon almost snatched a surprise winner in added time when Mate Bilic raced clear but the Croatian forward was denied by Valencia goalkeeper Cesar Sanchez.
Villarreal were taking on Athletic Bilbao in the late match.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies