A superb early goal from Cristiano Ronaldo and a second-half Kaka penalty gave Real Madrid a 2-0 win at 10-man Villarreal in La Liga on Wednesday.
Villarreal defender Gonzalo Rodriguez was sent off 10 minutes before the break, earning a second yellow card catching Kaka in the chest with a reckless flying kick.
The Brazilian stepped up to double Real's lead in the 73rd minute when the referee ruled Angel Lopez had handled Marcelo's cross.
Real's fourth win out of four put them level on 12 points with champions Barcelona, who thrashed Racing Santander 4-1 on Tuesday thanks to two goals from Lionel Messi and one apiece from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Gerard Pique.
Atletico Madrid conceded an equaliser in the 89th minute to draw 2-2 at home to Almeria on Wednesday. Atletico have just two points from their four matches and pressure is mounting on coach Abel Resino.
Athletic Bilbao were looking for their fourth win of the season at promoted Tenerife in a later game on Wednesday.