Karim Benzema bagged a second-half brace as Real Madrid got back to winning ways after a dreadful past couple of weeks by coming from behind to defeat Real Valladolid.
A pair of defeats at home to Barcelona looks to have ended Madrid’s quest for domestic glory this season while the pressure on Santiago Solari intensified after the capital club were knocked out of the Champions League by Ajax.
They made a sluggish start at the Estadio Municipal Jose Zorrilla against a side battling to retain their LaLiga status but two goals from Benzema and one each for Raphael Varane and Luka Modric underpinned a 4-1 victory.
Valladolid missed a penalty and had two goals ruled out for offside early on before taking the lead through Anuar Tuhami just before the half hour, but they were unable to capitalise against a Madrid side that finished with 10 men following the late dismissal of Casemiro.
Madrid were without several of their first-teamers as full-back Dani Carvajal and forward trio Vincius Junior, Lucas Vazquez and Gareth Bale were among the injury absentees while Sergio Ramos missed out through suspension.
Perhaps still nursing their wounds after a morale-sapping recent spell, Madrid were out-of-sorts early on as Valladolid looked to add to their misery.
The hosts were awarded a penalty in the 12th minute when Alvaro Odriozola hauled down Sergi Guardiola in the area although Madrid were given a let-off when Ruben Alcaraz wildly blazed over the cross bar.
Valladolid had the ball in the net moments later but Madrid were bailed out by the video assistant referee, which determined Keko to be offside before delivering the cross which was converted by Guardiola.
Guardiola once again thought he had opened the scoring but VAR ruled the former Barcelona B forward had strayed offside before heading beyond Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
Madrid failed to heed the warning signs, though, as their opponents were rewarded for their persistence in the 29th minute, when Keko’s cross was diverted towards goal by Guardiola before being turned in by Anuar.
Having worked so hard to take the lead, Valladolid were undone by a sloppy error from goalkeeper Jordi Masip, who miscued a punch from Toni Kroos’ corner, allowing Varane to slot into the goal.
Masip atoned for his mistake on the stroke of half-time when he tipped away Brazilian midfielder Casemiro’s effort from distance.
The visitors started on the front foot after the interval and were awarded a spot kick six minutes after the restart when Oscar Plano brought down Odriozola.
Benzema proved not to be in as charitable mood as Alcaraz earlier as he coolly placed his spot-kick into the corner as Masip dived the wrong way.
The Frenchman gave Madrid a two-goal cushion and doubled his tally for the evening when he headed home from Kroos’ corner in the 59th minute.
Valladolid refused to surrender and the unfortunate Guardiola saw his strike clatter the post while they were given hope when Casemiro was given his marching orders after a cynical challenge on Plano which brought a second yellow card.
But Modric added further gloss to the scoreline when he jinked his way into the box and slotted beyond Masip.