Madrid: Real Madrid won a difficult and controversial away game against Rayo Vallecano to retain their 10-point lead over FC Barcelona at the top of the Spanish Primera Liga table.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored the lone goal of the game with a spectacular back-heel 10 minutes into the second half to give his team 1-0 victory on Sunday, a newspaper reported.

However, Madrid were again beneficiaries of some favourable referring decisions after match official Fernandez Borbalan chose not to see a clear foul from defender Sergio Ramos on Diego Costa, which should have been punished with a red card for Ramos and a penalty for Rayo after just 19 minutes.

He then sent Rayo's Michu off for an innocuous challenge in the closing minutes as the home side looked to get back on level terms.

Barcelona were under pressure to win after Real Madrid's victory, and it was Lionel Messi who took them over the line. A magnificent free kick from the Argentine helped Barca to a 2-1 win away to Atletico Madrid.

Dani Alves opened the scoring for the Catalans following a fine team move, but Radamel Falcao equalized for Atletico in the second half. Barca keeper Victor Valdes had to make several fine saves before Messi's quick thinking saw him chip home the winning free kick before anyone was expecting it.

Barca remain 10 points behind Real Madrid but have now played possibly their toughest away game between now and the end of the season.

(Agencies)