Two goals from Mesut Ozil helped Real Madrid to a 3-2 comeback win at Real Valladolid in La Liga.
Angola’s former Manchester United striker Manucho took his season tally to six Liga goals as Madrid twice came from behind through goals from Karim Benzema and Ozil in a topsy-turvy first half.
Madrid took off two defenders for attacking midfielders and their bravery paid off as a fantastic Ozil free-kick put them ahead for the first time on the night, ultimately proving decisive as both sides toiled through the latter stages.
Madrid have been as dominant as ever at the Bernabeu this season, but their travels have been a different matter entirely, picking up less than half the maximum points away from home.
Under-fire coach Jose Mourinho made a handful of changes from the Champions League victory over Ajax in midweek, restoring his usual first-choice players to the side, with youngster Nacho the only inexperienced pick at left-back.
Their soft away touch looked set to continue when Manucho put the hosts ahead from close range after Real failed to clear a seventh-minute corner.
A defensive mix-up down the other end saw Los Merengues level, Benzema tapping in after a comedy of errors let Jose Maria Callejon in down the right.
Real were playing the better football, Dani Hernandez punching a Ronaldo free-kick away, but Valladolid got a second midway through the half as Manucho again exploited the visitors’ inability to defend corners, rising well above Sergio Ramos to head in another.
Mourinho’s side continued to press, Callejon putting a lob wide with Dani stranded, the Valladolid keeper making a great stop from a Ronaldo drive and defender Marc Valiente making up for his part in Real’s equaliser with a fantastic last-ditch challenge on Benzema.
But Madrid got their deserved equaliser in the dying seconds of the half, and what an equaliser it was – Ozil going on a mazy run before exchanging a wonderful one-two with Benzema, whose backheel sent the German through for a cool finish.
With only a win sufficing for Mourinho, he took the brave attacking decision to bring Angel Di Maria on as Callejon dropped to left-back in place of Nacho.
Madrid continued to dominate possession but with little real impact – in the first quarter-hour of the half, a Ramos header wide from a set-piece was all they could muster.
The hosts, meanwhile, had a couple of good opportunities on the counter attack, Oscar half-volleying one effort wide and forcing an uncertain save with another shot from distance.
Real needed more going forward, making another brave swap as Luka Modric replaced Alvaro Arebloa, leaving them with no actual full-backs on the pitch.
The hosts were less of a threat from set-pieces, corner-taker Patrick Ebert having been replaced through injury, and Real were edging closer and closer to a third.
Di Maria was denied by another good Dani save, while Ramos saw a goal incorrectly disallowed for offside, although it was a tough decision with multiple players clouding the assistant’s judgement following a corner.
With 18 minutes left, Los Merengues did finally edge ahead for the first time, and what a goal it was.
After a soft free-kick was conceded by Henrique Sereno on Benzema, most expected Ronaldo to step up on the edge of the box. But he stood aside for Ozil, who curled a majestic effort in off the angle of post and bar.
Valladolid responded by bringing on forward Javi Guerra, but it was not a great decision as danger man Manucho made way for the Spanish forward.
They toiled through the latter stages though, Madrid sitting deep and almost getting a fourth as Dani made good stops from Ozil again and Sergio Ramos.
The result sees Madrid cut the gap on second-placed city rivals Atletico to two points, although they are still eight shy of leaders Barcelona.
Valladolid, meanwhile, stay seventh for now.