VALENCIA, Spain – Real Madrid, fresh off being eliminated from the Copa del Rey, got back on track on Saturday with a 4-1 away win over Valencia in the 21st round of La Liga.
Despite the lopsided final score that sent the home fans trudging toward the exits, the match at Mestalla Stadium in this eastern city was competitive until late in the second half.
In the first half, Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo scored two goals on penalty kicks – in the 16th and 38th minutes.
The first penalty was awarded when defender Martin Montoya clearly fouled the Portuguese striker, but the home crowd furiously protested the second one, which came after Montoya knocked French striker Karim Benzema to the ground from behind.
Both teams came out aggressively at the start of the second half, although Valencia’s offensive approach left it vulnerable to counterattacks by the Blancos.
Valencia head coach Marcelino Garcia Toral brought in Carlos Soler for Gonçalo Guedes after the intermission, a midfield switch that gave his squad more possession of the ball and led to its first goal when Santi Mina headed home a Dani Parejo corner at the 58-minute mark.
The hosts then proceeded to launch an all-out assault on Real Madrid’s goal, although with no success in getting anything past Costa Rican netminder Keylor Navas.
Valencia then was left to rue those missed chances when Marcelo beat goalkeeper Neto in the 84th minute to make the score 3-1. Toni Kroos put the icing on Real Madrid’s victory with a goal two minutes before the second-half stoppage time.
With the win, fourth-placed Real Madrid (38 points) is only two points behind third-placed Valencia and also has a game in hand.
But the Blancos, who were eliminated from the Copa del Rey with a stunning 2-1 home loss Wednesday to Leganes, remain a whopping 16 points behind La Liga-leading FC Barcelona, which will host Alaves on Sunday.