Madrid: Real Madrid responded to wins by pace-setters FC Barcelona and Atletico Madrid with a convincing 3-0 victory against Villarreal that left them just one point behind their title rivals.
Real Madrid's players celebrate a goal during against Villarreal. Pic/ AFP
The joy of the fans at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium here Wednesday was tempered, however, by the sight of seeing superstar Cristiano Ronaldo walk off the field in apparent distress with three minutes left in regulation, reports Efe.
Real Madrid dominated possession from the start, but the first chance came only in the 11th minute, when Marcelo's pass connected with an unmarked Ronaldo in front of the Villarreal goal, but the visiting keeper Sergio Asenjo stopped the Portuguese international.
With the Bernabeu faithful growing restless over the lack of sparkle, Luka Modric stepped forward, delivering a bicycle kick and pass to set up a shot by Lucas Vazquez that narrowly missed.
Madrid kept pushing forward and the goal finally came in the 41st minute, as Karim Benzema put away a loose ball following a Cristiano's cross.
The relief nearly turned to dismay before the break, but the quick reflexes of Real Madrid keeper Keylor Navas ensured that Villarreal's only real chance of the night came to nothing.
Ronaldo, with an opportunity to settle the match in the opening seconds of the second half, sent his header over the crossbar.
Lucas Vazquez, a surprise starter, made it 2-0 in the 69th minute, with a deceptive ball. Modric, the most impressive performer of the match, finished the scoring in the 76th minute.
With four matches left to play, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid are tied on points with 79 points, though Barcelona are ahead on goal difference.
Real Madrid has 78 points.