Ronaldo scores as Madrid extends lead in Spain, Liverpool continues push for Champions League



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Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema made sure Real Madrid increased its lead over Barcelona in the Spanish League on Sunday while Liverpool continued its revival in the Premier League.

In Italy, Roma's slim title hopes faded further and the race for the French title remained wide-open, with Lyon restoring its two-point lead over defending champion Paris Saint-Germain.

Here's a look at the action from the top European leagues:


SPAIN

Ronaldo and Benzema scored to give Real Madrid a 2-0 win at Elche, as the Spanish league leaders capitalized on Barcelona's stumble to increase their advantage to four points.

Madrid grasped the opportunity Barcelona had presented it with after a 1-0 defeat at home to Malaga on Saturday.

Elche was fortunate to escape without conceding in a first half dominated by Madrid.

But Benzema tapped in a boggled clearance by Elche's defense to make the breakthrough in the 56th, and Ronaldo ended a five-round scoring drought by heading in his league-leading 29th goal in the 69th.

Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas' 500th Spanish league game was one of his most placid, as he set a club record for the most wins by a Madrid player in la Liga with 328.

"I am thankful, this record is not easy to get being a Real Madrid player, maybe in another club it would have been easier," said Casillas. "I never thought about reaching a certain number."


ENGLAND

Liverpool moved two points off the top four in the Premier League with a 2-0 win at Southampton, while Tottenham fought back for a 2-2 draw with West Ham.

The victory moves Liverpool into sixth and Brendan Rodgers' side is now two points behind Manchester United, who still occupies the fourth and final Champions League position, despite losing 2-1 at Swansea on Saturday.

A brilliant long-range strike from Philippe Coutinho put Liverpool ahead after three minutes, with the Brazil international's effort beating Southampton goalkeeper Fraser Forster from 25 yards and going in off the crossbar.

Southampton had most of the possession in the second half but could not break down Liverpool's stern defense.

And Raheem Sterling secured the win in the 73rd, lashing in from the edge of the area after Matt Targett failed to clear Alberto Moreno's cross.

"It is an excellent win, defensively we were very strong,' Rodgers said, before refusing to be drawn on his side's chances of usurping United. "It is just going to be small steps for us. We have organized the team in a different way and we have been playing two or three times a week now for the last four months and today was a huge win."

Liverpool overtook Tottenham in the table after Mauricio Pochettino's side came from two goals down to draw 2-2 against West Ham at White Hart Lane.

Elsewhere, Everton was held 2-2 at home to bottom club Leicester.


GERMANY

Dutch striker Bas Dost scored twice for Wolfsburg to consolidate second place in the Bundesliga with a 2-1 win over relegation candidate Hertha Berlin.

Dost maintained his remarkable feat of scoring in every Wolfsburg game this year with his 10th and 11th goals in six competitive games.

The former Heerenveen forward got off the mark in the 10th minute when Andre Schuerrle headed on Vieirinha's cross.

Julian Schieber equalized on the half hour with a diving header to Valentin Stocker's cross after the Swiss had shaken off a defender.

Dost sealed the result in the 74th when he converted on the rebound after Luiz Gustavo's effort crashed back off the post.

Wolfsburg stayed eight points behind Bayern Munich and 10 points clear of third-placed Borussia Moenchengladbach, which had Branimir Hrgota to thank for salvaging a 1-1 draw at Hamburger SV with an injury time goal in the early game.

Hamburg is just two points above the relegation zone, while Hertha is two from safety and facing its third relegation in five years.


ITALY

Roma drew 1-1 at Hellas Verona in Serie A to leave it nine points behind league leader Juventus.

Francesco Totti fired Roma in front in the 26th minute but Verona leveled when Seydou Keita deflected Bosko Jankovic's header into his own net.

Adem Ljajic should have sent Roma in at the break in front after a fine first-half performance from the capital side, but he hit the post.

It was Roma's sixth draw in its past seven league matches.

Elsewhere, Lazio moved fourth as Antonio Candreva helped it beat Palermo 2-1. Lazio went a point ahead of Fiorentina, which was held 1-1 by Torino, and two behind Napoli, which hosts Sassuolo on Monday.

AC Milan recorded only its second win in nine matches with a 2-0 victory over Cesena, while Empoli beat fellow struggler Chievo Verona 3-0.


FRANCE

Up-and-coming attacking midfielder Nabil Fekir scored the winner as Lyon beat Nantes 1-0 to restore its two-point lead over defending champion Paris Saint-Germain in the French league.

Fekir, who has been in superb form this season, lifted Lyon to its first win in four games after the seven-time champions struggled in the absence of Alexandre Lacazette. The league's top scorer made a convincing return from a hamstring injury against Nantes after missing three games but it was Fekir who stole the spotlight in a match of few chances for both sides.

"It was important to win before three consecutive away matches against difficult teams. We'll now after that spell if we can still annoy Paris and stay on the podium," Lyon coach Hubert Fournier said.

Lyon travels to Lille next weekend before trips to Montpellier and Marseille, which missed the chance to level on points with PSG after being held to a 2-2 draw at fifth-placed Saint-Etienne. Marcelo Bielsa's side slipped to third in the standings, two points behind PSG.

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