| Roberto Carlos is dripping wet after a tackle during Real Madridís Primera Liga match against Valencia on Sunday. Real won 4-1. (Reuters)
Madrid: A Real Madrid side in ruthless attacking form crushed 10-man Valencia 4-1 at the Bernabeu on Sunday to claim their fifth successive Spanish League win and close to within three points of leaders Real Sociedad.
Ronaldo got the opening goal on 36 minutes with a trademark run and shot before defending champions Valencia grabbed an equaliser nine minutes into the second half with a Roberto Ayala header.
A draw looked the likeliest result as the teams struggled on a heavy pitch but the sending-off of Pablo Aimar on 64 minutes handed Real the initiative and the home side went ahead again with a Zinedine Zidane strike four minutes later.
With five minutes to go, and Valencia pressing for a second equaliser, Guti made certain of victory with a leisurely turn and shot and substitute Javier Portillo rounded off the scoring in injury-time after more excellent work from Zidane.
Victory for Real saw them take full advantage of a slip from Real Sociedad, who could manage no better than a 2-2 draw at home to Malaga despite twice taking the lead and dominating against a side reduced to 10 men on 84 minutes.
The result extended Real Sociedadís unbeaten record into 2003 ó they are the only side in the top flight yet to lose a game ó and gave them 36 points from 16 games. Real Madrid stay second on 33 points, with Deportivo La Corunaís 3-0 derby win over Celta Vigo on Saturday taking them up to third on 29. Valencia drop to fourth on 28 points.
Further down the table, Barcelonaís improvement continued as they moved up to eighth place, still 14 points off the championship pace, with a second successive win, 3-0 at home to the first divisionís bottom club Recreativo Huelva.
Fabio Rochemback put Barca ahead on nine minutes with a right-foot blast from the edge of the area, a Loren own goal made it 2-0 and the sending-off of Paraguayan fullback Nelson Zelaya on 51 minutes settled matters.
Xavi fired the penalty against a post but Philip Cocu wrapped up the win 10 minutes from time after playing a neat one-two with Thiago Motta.
Thrilling win for Wolves
Meanwhile, in the FA Cup, first division Wolverhampton Wanderers squandered a 2-0 lead but still came back for a thrilling 3-2 victory over Newcastle United in the third round on Sunday.
Liverpool had earlier beaten a lacklustre Manchester City 1-0 and Fulham had trounced Birmingham City 3-1 to reach the fourth round in their all-Premier League games.
But the second biggest shock of the round, after Evertonís defeat to third division Shrewsbury on Saturday, was at Molineux where Wolves, 10th in the 24 team first division, won a pulsating Cup tie against a side fourth in the Premier League. Former England midfielder Paul Ince put them ahead after six minutes and Mark Kennedy made it 2-0 before two goals just before the break from Jermaine Jenas and Alan Shearer, from the penalty spot, made it all square. Wolves striker George Ndah got the winner.
Liverpoolís England midfielder Danny Murphy could sleep easy after his second-half penalty secured a fully-deserved victory at Maine Road after the hosts simply failed to perform. Manager Gerard Houllier, whose side have endured the clubís worse league run since 1953-54 after failing to win any of their last 10 league games, was a relieved man.
Racing Strasbourg, winners in 2001, and Troyes were humiliated by small amateur teams on Sunday to bring to nine the number of first division clubs eliminated in the first round of the French Cup. Strasbourg lost 0-1 at fourth division Bourg-Peronnas and nine-man Troyes went down 1-3 away to Schiltigheim of the fifth division, for whom striker Hinard scored twice.
Sedan were also eliminated, 1-3 on penalties at third division Martigues following a goalless draw after extra time.
Paris St Germain had to fight hard to overcome another third division side, beating Besancon 1-0 after extra time with a goal by defender Lionel Potillon, who unleashed a 25-metre winner in the 111th minute.
Troyes had defender Karl Tourenne sent off in the 70th minute with the score already 2-0 to Schiltigheim and Frederic Adam was dismissed seven minutes from time. Both were shown the red card after their second bookable offences.
Reigning champions Olympique Lyon and five-time winners Monaco were the first to bow out to teams from lower divisions on Saturday in a competition which has traditionally proved to be something of a graveyard for the French elite.