BARCELONA, Spain -- With Cristiano Ronaldo missing his scoring touch, Real Madrid needed defender Pepe to score in the second half to secure a 1-0 victory at Espanyol on Sunday to pull within three points of the Spanish league co-leaders. Nick Ritchie Jersey . Pepe was left unmarked to head in Luka Modrics corner kick in the 55th minute, as Cristiano Ronaldo failed to add to his league-leading 20 goals. Ronaldo is favoured to win the FIFAs Ballon dOr on Monday over Lionel Messi and Franck Ribery. The Portugal forward uncharacteristically wasted two clear scoring chances, while goalkeeper Kiko Casilla denied him on another three occasions. "The win is important because winning on the road is key to winning the league," said Pepe, who defended Ronaldo despite his off day. "I would vote for Cristiano because what he did last year is very important and he deserves it." Third-place Madrid took full advantage of Saturdays scoreless draw between Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, which left them level at the top of the table at the leagues halfway mark. "The important thing today was to cut into Barcelona and Atleticos lead," said Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti. "We have to feel satisfied." Also on Sunday, Real Betis remained in last place after slumping to an error-plagued 2-1 loss at home to Osasuna. Rayo Vallecano won 1-0 at Getafes foggy Alfonso Perez Coliseum to end a five-game streak without a win in league play, and Levante edged Malaga 1-0 at home thanks to David Barrals 19th-minute header. Led by striker Jhon Cordoba, Espanyol surged forward at the start and almost took the lead when Christian Stuani steered his point-blank header past the wrong side of the post four minutes in. Madrid weathered Espanyols initial push and turned to Karim Benzema and Ronaldo to provide the attacking threat. Ronaldo scuffed Benzemas pass in the 18th before drawing two awkward saves from Casilla with a powerful strike in the 31st and a dipping free kick in the 37th. Espanyol, which was without suspended forward Sergio Garcia and coach Javier Aguirre, was fortunate to make it to halftime not trailing after Angel Di Maria squandered Madrids four-on-two counterattack seconds before Benzema headed wide in the 42nd. But Pepe made good on Madrids dominance by thumping Modrics pass under Casilla, who got a hand on the ball but not enough to keep it out of his net. Ronaldo had two more great looks to increase his impressive tally this season, but Casilla bettered him one-on-one in the 82nd before saving Benzemas shot in the 89th and watching Ronaldo fire the rebound wide with the goalmouth beckoning. Nothing went Betis way against Osasuna, a direct relegation rival, in a game both sides finished with 10 men. Betis conceded Roberto Torres header within two minutes, had Jose "Nono" Delgado dismissed with his second yellow card in the 38th, and saw Jordi Figueras score an own goal in the 57th. And when Osasuna goalkeeper Andres Fernandez gave them a sliver of hope in the 62nd when he was red carded for fouling Ruben Castro in the area, Castro deflated the crowd at Benito Villamarin Stadium by sending his penalty kick off the crossbar. Jorge Molina pulled one back in the 80th but Osasuna had two opportunities to widen the margin before the final whistle. The demoralizing loss left Betis winless in its last 12 league matches and seven points from safety. "We took a step backward today," said Betis coach Juan Carlos Garrido. "I wont deny it. It was important to win today, and besides, clearly our first half of the season was very poor. There has to be a radical turnaround in every facet for us to remain in the first division." Osasuna stayed unbeaten in four rounds and edged five points clear of the drop. Rayos win at Getafe still left it in the relegation zone. Forward Alberto Bueno scored what proved to be the winner in the 29th after Alejandro Galvez was quick to cross a rebounded shot. Levante climbed past Malaga into the middle of the standings. Teemu Selanne Jersey .J. -- Travis Zajac of the New Jersey Devils took a lot of grief considering his scored the first of his career-best three goals just 12 seconds into a crucial game against the Florida Panthers. Anaheim Ducks Shirts . City has reached new heights under manager Manuel Pellegrini as they transition from big spending/immediate impact to perennial contender. Yaya Toures seeming discontent Tuesday may complicate that, as does the little issue of Financial Fair Play.SEATTLE -- Tampa Bay Rays right hander Alex Cobb threw a 60-pitch simulated game as he continues his recovery from an oblique muscle strain. Cobb threw the simulated game on Monday at Tampa Bays spring training complex in Port Charlotte, Florida. Cobb threw four innings with 15 pitches per inning. Cobb has been out since April 13 and became the third Rays starter to land on the disabled listt joining Matt Moore and Jeremy Hellickson. Samuel Pahlsson Jersey. Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said the club needed to see how Cobb responds the day after throwing, but he could appear in a game this weekend. Maddon also said its possible Cobb might only need one rehab start before rejoining the club. Cobb was 1-1 with a 1.89 ERA in three starts before going on the disabled list. ' ' '