Real Madrid strolls to 3-0 win over Sevilla
MADRID (AP) -Karim Benzema scored two second-half goals as Spanish leader Real Madrid closed in on its first league title in four years by strolling to a 3-0 victory over Sevilla on Sunday.
The France striker struck twice in quick succession early in the second half as Madrid bounced back from its Champions League semifinal exit to Bayern Munich.
Madrid provisionally moved 10 points clear of Barcelona, which must win at Rayo Vallecano later Sunday to keep its slim chances of a fourth straight league trophy.
Cristiano Ronaldo extended his league record goal total to 43 with a first-half opener that was the Portugal forward's 57th goal of the season at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium.
Madrid showed no side effects from Wednesday's disappointing European loss when Ronaldo and Kaka both failed to convert penalties in Madrid's bid for a first Champions League final appearance in 10 years.
Madrid could be celebrating its record 32nd league trophy if Barcelona fails to win at the Vallecas Stadium, in the first game since coach Pep Guardiola announced he was leaving at the end of the season with assistant Tito Vilanova his replacement.
"This is good for us, it was a very important game for us as we continue on looking to be champions,'' Benzema told Canal Plus TV as Madrid reached 91 points to Barcelona's 81. "The Champions League is in the past, we only care about the league now.''
Benzema set up Ronaldo's 19th-minute opener as he rolled a short pass into his teammate's path and the Portugal forward cut back to shake his marker and slot home a low shot inside the opposite corner.
Benzema then tested Javi Varas, who had denied Marcelo from a tight angle, before watching the post stop Ronaldo's free kick from next to the penalty spot in the 36th.
Benzema atoned for a pair of first-half misses in the 48th when he redirected Angel di Maria's skipping cross into the area past Varas.
Four minutes later, Varas could only watch Benzema's powerful header of a Sergio Ramos cross fly past him into the top of the goal.
It was the Frenchman's 20th league goal and 31st in all competitions, making this his best season at Madrid.
Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas was rarely tested aside from Alvaro Negredo's weak effort moments before Benzema's first goal.
Madrid extended its league record goal tally to 112 goals with three games remaining for the club to further inflate the total.
"The sooner (we win the league), the better,'' Madrid assistant coach Aitor Karanka said.
Under the watchful eye of Qatar owner Sheik Abdullah Bin Nasser Al-Thani, Malaga continued its run toward securing a Champions League spot as it beat Valencia 1-0 to match the third-place club's 55-point total.
Ignacio Camacho headed in the 27th-minute winner for the hosts, who enjoyed a man advantage over the final half hour after Sofiane Feghouli was red carded for clashing with Jose Rondon.
Malaga is three points ahead of Levante in the race for the league's final Champions League qualifying spot.
Also, Zaragoza maintained its chances of avoiding the drop with a 2-0 victory over Europa League finalist Athletic Bilbao.
Edu Oriel and Antonio "Apono'' Galdeano scored either side of halftime to see Zaragoza join Sporting on 34 points, four behind Villarreal in the last safe spot. Racing Santander has already been relegated.
"The team is drained, the players have given their all,'' Zaragoza coach Manolo Jimenez said. "We're going to feel tired over the final stretch but the best remedy for the bruises, muscle problems and fatigues are victories.''
Bilbao slipped seven points back of fourth place and the last Champions League qualifying place.
Later Sunday, Real Betis plays Atletico Madrid, which will play Athletic in next month's Europa League final.