Marcelo scored a late winner as Real Madrid salvaged a 2-1 victory over Valencia on Saturday to move back ahead in the La Liga title race.
Marcelo's 86th-minute strike avenged Cristiano Ronaldo's missed penalty after the Portuguese's bullet header had given Los Blancos the lead and Dani Parejo's brilliant free kick appeared to be a worthy equaliser for Valencia.
James Rodriguez was given another start by Zinedine Zidane after his brace at Deportivo La Coruna midweek, with Gareth Bale still sidelined.
However, Isco was forced to settle for a place on the substitutes’ bench, alongside Lucas Vazquez, Marco Asensio and Alvaro Morata.
Valencia won the reverse fixture 2-1 back in February, which ended Madrid’s record unbeaten run of 40 games, but Simone Zaza was unable to add to his goal against Los Blancos that evening due to injury.
Yet Santi Mina should’ve found the back of Keylor Navas’ net in the opening minute. Sergio Ramos misjudged a long ball and the striker had a shot saved by the Costa Rican, before hitting the post with the rebound.
The visitors found a lot of space in behind, but their decision-making left a lot to be desired, with Fabian Orellana fluffing two particularly-promising shooting positions.
James went for a shot rather than a cross from a free kick to the far right of Valencia’s goal, but he bent it just wide of Diego Alves’ far corner.
Moments later, Ronaldo ran onto Dani Carvajal’s cross from the right, outjumped Ezequiel Garay and and powered a header past Alves.
Benzema struck Alves’ right-hand post after he shifted onto his stronger right foot in Valencia’s box, but Parejo was swiftly penalised for having his arms over Luka Modric, even though contact was marginal at best.
However, Alves lived up to his penalty-king tag by guessing correctly down to his left to push away Ronaldo’s effort. It was the third spot-kick that the Brazilian has saved from the attacker in La Liga.
Valencia could’ve equalised through Rodrigo Moreno, but the ex-madridista could only loop a square ball over Keylor’s goal with his head, despite being unmarked.
Toni Lato then made a magnificent block on the line to deny Ronaldo from bundling home Asensio’s cross at the far post, although the cantera took the full weight of the No 7 in return.
Out of nothing, Parejo curled a sensational free kick into Keylor’s top-left corner from around 30 yards out.
That dealt a huge blow to Madrid’s title hopes, but they threw the kitchen sink at Valencia in no time and were rewarded when Marcelo blasted a low shot past Alves with his weaker right foot.
Real Madrid 2-1 Valencia
Ronaldo 27, Marcelo 86 (RM) Parejo 86 (V)
Real Madrid: Keylor; Carvajal, Nacho, Ramos, Marcelo; Modric (Lucas Vazquez 90), Casemiro, Kroos; James (Asensio 66), Benzema (Morata 72), Ronaldo
Valencia: Alves; Montoya, Garay, Mangala, Lato (Gaya 86); Parejo, Soler; Munir, Orellana (Bakkali 89), Nani (Rodrigo 70); Mina
Referee: Gil Manzano