Real Madrid left it late to beat third place Deportivo La Coruna 2-1 and remain top of La Liga.

Raul’s strike came with only six minutes remaining, adding to Ronaldo’s goal shortly before half-time.

The match looked to be heading for a draw after Walter Pandiani had put Deportivo level. Pandiani had only been on the pitch for 15 seconds before he was played through by Sergio, allowing him time to slot the ball past Casillas.

Raul proved to be Real’s saving grace when he converted Roberto Carlos’ cross.

In the dying moments of the game tempers spilled over between David Beckham and two Argentine players, Aldo Duscher and Lionel Scaloni. Beckham was cautioned after a late tackle on Scaloni. Duscher, who was responsible for breaking Beckham’s metatarsal bone prior to last year’s World Cup, also reacted furiously to Beckham, after the England captain refused to shake his hand and exchange shirts after the match.

Referee Alfonso Pino Zamorano was the surprise “star” as Barcelona beat struggling Espanyol 3-1. The referee sent off six players to set a new La Liga record.

Jordi Cruyff had given the home side the advantage after only eight minutes. Ronaldinho leveled the score two minutes later, before Patrick Kluivert added a brace.

Tempers soon boiled over sparking a mass exodus of players from the pitch. Barcelona had Quaresma, Cocu and Marquez receiving their marching orders. While Espanyol had Ivan de la Pena, Soldevilla and Lopo also sent off.

Valencia kept up the pressure on Real after winning 1-0 away against Real Betis after Juanito had scored an own goal.

The first encounter between this season’s newly promoted clubs, saw Albacete beat Zaragoza 1-0. Celta Vigo drew 2-2 with Atletico Madrid with Villarreal beating Real Sociedad 2-0.

Athletic Bilbao beat Sevilla 2-1 keeping them in sixth place. Malaga moved to eighth after beating Real Mallorca 3-1 thanks to goals from Fernando Sanz, Sergio Duda and Ballesta Salva. Mallorca’s goal was scored by Samuel Eto’o Fourth place Osasuna drew 0-0 with Racing Santander, as did Valladolid against Murcia.