Real show character in big win at Valencia

Cristiano Ronaldo scored two penalties as stumbling Spanish La 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.

The Portuguese 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 Real'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 Copa del Rey 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-footed strike in the 84th minute and Toni Kroos added the fourth, capping a second win in five league games for Real 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 can pull further ahead if they beat Alaves this morning (Singapore time).

Navas said: "We played a great game, we clung on when we needed to and didn't lose our character at any point.

"We have been playing well in a lot of games, but we also know we've done badly in others and, with performances like this, we will grow much stronger."

Valencia striker Mina said that the scoreline was harsh on his side and criticised the referee for awarding the second penalty for Montoya's shove on Benzema.

"If you give a penalty for that then you have to give a lot of penalties in every game," he said.

"The scoreline is too big given how well we played, but we have to keep believing in ourselves. We can't drop off now, we have to turn this round 100 per cent." - REUTERS