MADRID, Jan 7 (Reuters) - Rayo Vallecano stayed in the hunt for a European qualification place when club captain Piti struck twice in a 3-1 win at home to Madrid rivals Getafe on Monday.
The victory at a chilly Estadio de Vallecas lifted Rayo above Valencia and Real Sociedad into seventh and they are two points behind sixth-placed Levante, who occupy the second of Spain's two Europa League berths.
Lass Bangoura fired Rayo ahead in the 14th minute when he played the ball into space and nipped between two defenders before crashing an angled shot into the roof of the net.
Piti made it 2-0 14 minutes later with a fine left-foot volley across Getafe goalkeeper Miguel Angel Moya and found the net again seven minutes into the second half when he slammed home a Leo Baptistao centre.
Getafe's 19-year-old forward Paco Alcacer pulled a goal back for the visitors in the 65th minute but their chances were effectively snuffed out seven minutes later when midfielder Michel was shown a straight red after clashing with Baptistao.
Unbeaten leaders Barcelona extended their advantage over second-placed Atletico Madrid to 11 points when they thrashed Espanyol 4-0 on Sunday.
Atletico were held to a 1-1 draw at Real Mallorca and Real Madrid closed to within five points of their city rivals thanks to a 4-3 victory at home to Real Sociedad. (Reporting by Iain Rogers, editing by Martyn Herman)