Ronaldo hat-trick takes Real to the top

Ronaldo hat-trick takes Real to the top

Gonzalo Higuain opened the scoring against Malaga and Ronaldo, the world's most expensive player, rattled in three more before the break to take Real's goal tally to 25 from their last six games in all competitions. Barcelona were denied by an inspired performance from goalkeeper Javi Varas who crowned his display with a stoppage-time penalty save from Lionel Messi as his side finished with nine men at the Nou Camp. Real climbed to 19 points from eight games, one ahead of Barca. Unbeaten Sevilla are fourth with 16 points and big-spending Malaga are sixth with 13.

"Our first half was fantastic and that's where we won the game," Ronaldo told reporters.

Sporting Gijon logged their first win with a 2-0 home victory over promoted Granada, first-half goals from David Barral and Andre Castro dragging them off the foot of the standings and easing the pressure on coach Manuel Preciado.

The Asturians pushed north-coast rivals Racing Santander down to 20th on goal difference after Hector Cuper's winless side suffered a 1-0 home defeat to Espanyol.

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