Real Madrid needed a late goal by substitute Jese Rodriguez to earn a 3-2 victory at Valencia to stay in third place and five points behind its title rivals.
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Angel Di Maria blasted Madrid in front in the 28th when he controlled Marcelo’s lobbed pass, dribbled between two defenders and drilled in a left-footed strike.
Juan Bernat set up the equalizer for Valencia when he picked out Pablo Piatti with a cross to head in the 34th-minute equalizer.
Cristiano Ronaldo put Madrid back in front with a header in the 40th for his 18th league goal of the season. But Valencia toughened its defense after halftime and defender Jeremy Mathieu fended off Sergio Ramos to head in a corner in the 62nd for the 2-2.
Jese went on in the 73rd and nine minutes later he capped Madrid’s buildup after Luka Modric spotted him on the right side by rifling a low shot between goalie Vicente Guaita and his near post.
”This result is important,” Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said. ”We are excited for 2014, even though Barca and Atletico are leading and are favorites (to win the title).”
The league takes a two-week break for the winter holidays from Monday.