Real Madrid closed to within two points of Primera Liga pacesetters Barcelona and Atletico Madrid when Gareth Bale helped himself to his first four-goal haul in a 10-2 demolition of nine-man Rayo Vallecano on Sunday.
Madrid bounced back in some style from last weekend’s 1-0 defeat at Villarreal, with Karim Benzema netting a hat-trick and Cristiano Ronaldo scoring twice, but did not initially have it all their own way at the Bernabeu.
They were again whistled by some disgruntled home fans after they fell 2-1 behind following a Danilo effort that put them 1-0 ahead in the third minute.
Richard Jolly: Cristiano Ronaldo, rewriting history for Real Madrid, deserves Ballon d'Or over Barcelona rivals
However, once Rayo lost Tito to a straight red card for a wild tackle on Toni Kroos in the 14th minute and Jose Raul Baena to a second booking 15 minutes later Real quickly restored their lead and went in 4-2 ahead at halftime.
Bale had levelled at 2-2 with a header in the 25th minute, Ronaldo struck from the spot five minutes later after Baena had earned a second yellow card and conceded a penalty for a foul on Sergio Ramos and Bale sped clear and drove the ball low into the corner four minutes before the break.
With two men fewer, Rayo had little chance against waves of Real attacks and Benzema made it 5-2 three minutes into the second half before Ronaldo headed in a James Rodriguez cross in the 53rd.
The Portugal forward set up Bale for his hat-trick in the 61st and the Wales international completed his first four-goal haul with a 70th-minute tap-in to double his Liga goals tally for the season to eight.
Greg Lea: Diego Simeone, similar in style and character, the natural choice to replace Jose Mourinho at Chelsea
Benzema made it 9-2 in the 80th minute and Real hit double figures when the France international scored his third in the final minute.
It was the third time Madrid have scored 10 goals in a Primera Liga game and the first since they beat Elche 11-2 in 1960.
Madrid have 33 points from 16 matches in third place, with champions Barca and Atletico each on 35 ahead of Atletico’s match at Malaga later on Sunday.
Barca beat River Plate 3-0 to win the Club World Cup earlier on Sunday and will play their game in hand at Sporting Gijón in mid February.
Fourth-placed Celta Vigo can trim the gap to Madrid back to two points with a win at Granada later on Sunday, before Villarreal, a point behind Celta in fifth, play at Real Sociedad.
Follow us on Twitter @NatSportUAE
Like us on Facebook at facebook.com/TheNationalSport