Real Madrid strengthened their stay at the top and extended the difference with second-placed Barcelona by four points with a narrow 1-0 win over Getafe, thanks to a successful penalty kick from captain Sergio Ramos on Thursday at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stéfano Stadium.

In what could easily be Real Madrid’s weakest performance since the return of La Liga after the COVID-19 hiatus, the Zinedine Zidane-managed team struggled to create chances against a well-organised midfield and defense of sixth-placed Getafe.

The hosts also suffered an injury setback in the first half when Raphael Varane was taken off, and replaced by Eder Militao, after being hit in the face by the ball.

10 minutes into the second half, the star midfielder of Los Blancos Luka Modric tried his luck to get his team ahead. But his effort went wide, summing the kind of day Madrid was having in the office.

Meanwhile, at the other end Jaime Mata fired just over the bar, after an error from Ferland Mendy.

Desperate for a win to extend the lead at the top, Zidane reacted with a triple change, replacing Modric, Vinicius Jr and Isco with Rodrygo, Marco Asensio and Fede Valverde to bring some freshness and extra pace into his side.

The decision paid dividends as Mathias Oliveira brought down Dani Carvajal in his own box, display of an error for the first time by the Getafe back line. And much to the relief of a restless Madrid camp, their senior-most player Ramos comfortably scored from the 12 yards spot.

Real Madrid will now believe that, if they can win away to Athletic Club Bilbao on Sunday afternoon in what is one of their toughest matches between now and the end of the season, they will have one hand on the title.

Earlier in the day, Real Sociedad came back from a goal down at home to bottom of the table Espanyol to claim their first win since the return of football, while leaving their rivals 10 points from safety with just five games left to play.

Osasuna also won on Thursday with a 2-0 victory away to Eibar, which leaves the team from Pamplona with a chance of qualifying for Europe next season, while leaving Eibar with work still to do to ensure their top-flight survival.

With IANS inputs