Spanish La Liga Roundup, Jan. 9
Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat trick as Real Madrid twice came from behind to win 4-2 against Villarreal on Sunday, keeping the team within two points of Spanish league leader Barcelona.
The Portugal forward made it 1-1 by side-footing home Mesut Oezil's pass in the ninth minute, two minutes after Villarreal midfielder Cani had flicked the ball over goalkeeper Iker Casillas to open the scoring.
Villarreal's slick passing game troubled Madrid, and Bruno Soriano's exquisite 18th-minute pass put Ruben Castro through alone on goal to lob Casillas for a 2-1 lead.
However, Ronaldo headed in Xabi Alonso's swerving free kick inside the crowded Villarreal area just before the break to equalize.
Ronaldo scrambled to recover a loose ball in the 79th right after blowing an excellent chance in front of goal. He then swiveled before tucking a low shot past goalkeeper Diego Lopez inside the near post for a league-leading 22nd goal.
Villarreal coach Juan Carlos Garrido was sent off by the referee for protesting against the goal, believing the referee missed two offside calls in the buildup.
Second-half substitute Kaka redirected Ronaldo's pass past Lopez for his first goal of the season three minutes later, causing his pumped-up coach Jose Mourinho to urge the Santiago Bernabeu stadium crowd on from the sidelines.
It was Madrid's fifth straight win and the team also has a perfect home record from nine games.
"A very tough game for us," Kaka said. "But in the end we managed another win that is very important for us."
On Saturday, defending champion Barcelona beat Deportivo La Coruna 4-0 to move to 49 points from 18 games.
Villarreal was the better side early on and Cani's deserved opener came after a well-played combination. Santi Cazorla started the move along the left before Giuseppe Rossi put Cani in a one-on-one situation with Casillas to score with his right foot.
Soon after, Ronaldo capped a smart exchange between Oezil and Karim Benzema, who held four defenders close before passing to an unmarked Oezil and the Germany midfielder found Ronaldo alone at the far post for an easy goal.
Bruno then threaded a perfect through ball to set Ruben free, allowing the Argentine striker to lob Casillas.
Madrid found its rhythm after Ronaldo again equalized, the hosts imposing themselves after the restart.
Lopez saved from Benzema in the 58th before Ronaldo blew a one-on-one chance against Lopez in the 64th. While Madrid winger Angel Di Maria lost control moments later after running through the defense.
The action still moved from end to end, however, with Casillas having to save Rossi's angled shot soon after.
Mourinho brought on Kaka for defender Raul Albiol in the 70th to add an extra attacker, well aware that Madrid needed to win with Barcelona on a run of 12 straight victories.
Ronaldo came to the rescue.
He initially faltered after Lopez had spilled a cross right into his path, but he recovered to score his 30th goal in all competitions and 12th in six games.
Kaka's goal was his first since April. The Brazil playmaker recently returned from an injury that had sidelined him since the World Cup.
"To score a goal makes this a very nice night for me," he said. "It's special because it's been a long time since I scored a goal."
Mourinho had a water bottle thrown at him after celebrating Kaka's goal right in front of the Villarreal area, causing the visitors' bench to empty with players and officials swarming on the sideline.
"I don't think he had any intention of doing anything malicious, only to celebrate with his fans," Garrido said. "But my players didn't interpret it that way."
Earlier, Espanyol snapped a three-game losing run and dropped Zaragoza into last place with a 4-0 win.
Pablo Osvaldo, Luis Garcia and Alvaro Vazquez scored first-half goals and Sergio Garcia scored near the close to drop Zaragoza behind Almeria and Sporting Gijon on goal difference, with all three teams tied on 13 points in the relegation places.
Diego Castro scored during injury time for Sporting, which drew 1-1 at Racing Santander to extend its winless run to 11 games.
Osasuna and Getafe drew 0-0 while Mallorca made up for its midweek Copa del Rey exit to Almeria with a 4-1 victory over the same opponent.
Getafe joined Atletico Madrid in sixth place, while Osasuna hasn't won in six rounds.
Valencia and Levante met in a city derby later Sunday, while Atletico Madrid is at Hercules on Monday.
Also Saturday, Sevilla rallied to beat Real Sociedad 3-2 and Athletic Bilbao drew 1-1 at Malaga.