Cristiano Ronaldo scored two penalties as stumbling Liga champions Real Madrid hit back from their miserable start to 2018 with a rousing 4-1 win at Valencia on Saturday to move within two points of recapturing third place in La Liga.
Ronaldo sent goalkeeper Neto the wrong way to slot in his 100th penalty for club and country in the 16th minute after he was felled in the box following a lightning quick breakaway from a Valencia corner.
He made no mistake again from the spot in the 38th minute after Karim Benzema had been pushed over in the area by defender Martin Montoya, stretching Madrid's lead and moving on to eight goals in the league this season, including four penalties.
Valencia pulled themselves back into contention in the 58th minute when Santi Mina headed home from a corner while Real goalkeeper Keylor Navas denied Dani Parejo an equaliser with an impressive save with his foot.
Real had gone into the game on the back of being dumped out of the King's Cup by Leganes in midweek and were missing captain Sergio Ramos and midfielder Isco through injury but produced a gritty display, defending well and striking with intent on the counter-attack.
They also enjoyed a slice of fortune as Valencia's Rodrigo Moreno sent the ball over the bar from close range when faced with an open goal and Goncalo Guedes skewed a good opportunity wide before half-time.
Brazilian left back Marcelo made sure of the points with a thumping left-foot strike in the 84th minute and Toni Kroos added the fourth, capping a second win in five league games for Madrid and their first away league victory since beating Getafe on Oct. 14.
Real remained fourth in the standings on 38 points, two behind Valencia and with a game in hand but they are 16 adrift of runaway leaders Barcelona, who host Alaves on Sunday.