Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick and passed the landmark of 300 club goals as Real Madrid put a turbulent week behind them with a 4-0 win at home to Getafe in La Liga on Sunday to close to within four points of second-placed Atletico Madrid.
The build up to the game at the Bernabeu had been dominated by a report in Marca sports daily that said captains Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos had threatened to leave unless coach Jose Mourinho was dismissed.
Real president Florentino Perez called a news conference to deny the story and accused the newspaper of lying and the Spanish champions let their football do the talking with a comfortable victory against their city rivals.
Mourinho, who turned 50 on Saturday, left several key players out of his starting line up, including Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira, while goalkeeper Casillas was missing after breaking a bone in his hand midweek.
Real struggled to break through a determined Getafe defence in the first half but once Ramos had scrambled the ball into the net at a corner eight minutes after the break the home side turned the screw and Ronaldo struck three times in 10 minutes, the first his 300th club goal.
The Portuguese, who was substituted with around 15 minutes left after a knock to his right ankle, scored five for Sporting, 118 for Manchester United and now has 179 for Real thanks to his 20th career treble.
Real centre back Ricardo Carvalho appeared to impede Getafe goalkeeper Miguel Angel Moya with his arm in the leadup to the opening goal.
“It was a very quick passage of play the Ramos goal and I don’t know if it was a foul or not,” the Portuguese said in an interview with Spanish television broadcaster Canal Plus.
“The important thing was to win in that way so we can be stronger for the Cup and the Champions League,” he added.
Real have 43 points from 21 of 38 matches, with Atletico on 47 ahead of their match at Athletic Bilbao later on Sunday (2000 GMT) when they will be without injured top scorer Radamel Falcao.
Leaders Barcelona, who play at Real in their King’s Cup semifinal first leg on Wednesday, are looking to get back to winning ways when they host struggling Osasuna (1800).
Tito Vilanova’s side lost their unbeaten record and dropped points for only the second time this season when they suffered a 3-2 reverse at Real Sociedad last weekend but still have an eight-point lead over Atletico.
Getafe, who beat Real 2-1 at their Coliseum stadium earlier in the season but whose form has dipped in recent weeks, are 11th on 26 points.