Real Madrid defeats gritty Valencia
Real Madrid quickly regained a three-point advantage at the top of the Primera Division with an exhilarating and bad-tempered victory at Valencia.
It was a reasonably quiet first half, with Jose Mourinho's team ahead thanks to a splendid Karim Benzema strike.
But it kicked off in the second half with a flurry of yellow cards, off-the-ball confrontations and four goals as Valencia kept fighting back.
It was Real who took all three points, though, to maintain their lead over Barcelona, who had earlier won 4-0 at home to Real Zaragoza.
Twenty minutes were on the clock when Benzema put the visitors ahead. A quick free-kick from Xabi Alonso caught out Valencia's defence and Benzema first controlled the ball and then in one movement volleyed it superbly past Diego Alves.
Los Che started the second half brightly and threatened the Real Madrid goal a couple of times in the opening five minutes.
The game was beginning to lose its flow as both teams started losing their discipline.
There were a number of heavy challenges going in and a flurry of yellow cards as referee Jose Antonio Teixeira Vitienes struggled to keep control. Valencia's David Albelda and Real's Cristiano Ronaldo, Mesut Ozil and Sergio Ramos were all cautioned in a seven-minute period.
The game opened up with just 19 minutes remaining after Real looked to have easily sealed the points.
Ozil's corner was met by Ramos, whose superb glancing header beat the despairing dive of Alves.
However, just three minutes later the home side pulled one back through Roberto Soldado.
Substitute Hernandez Pablo's shot was saved by the on-rushing Iker Casillas, but the rebound fell to Soldado outside the area and he drilled the ball into the back of the net.
But a moment of madness from Alves gifted Ronaldo a goal in the 79th minute. The goalkeeper rushed out of his area but the Portugal international flicked the ball past him and scored from a tight angle.
Just three minutes later it was Casillas who made an error to hand Valencia a lifeline. The keeper was wrongly positioned, expecting the ball to go out of play, but Pablo Hernandez managed to get a cross in and find Soldado, who prodded the ball home from close range.
In the final minute Soldado was denied his hat-trick and the equaliser when his lob was disallowed for offside.
And in the final seconds of added time there was controversy when Valencia felt they should have had a penalty. A rebound off the crossbar was put back towards the Real goal and it hit Ozil on the floor. There were claims for a penalty for handball which the referee waved away.