Real Madrid were without the injured Karim Benzema and the dropped Gareth Bale but Mariano Diaz scored twice in a 3-2 win over Villarreal.
Mariano Diaz ensured Real Madrid coped without the injured Karim Benzema by scoring twice in a 3-1 win over Villarreal that helped Los Blancos bounce back from a dismal result a week earlier.
Zinedine Zidane’s men did not have it all their own way against their relegation-threatened visitors, but Mariano’s strikes in the opening moments of either half helped Madrid overcome the absence of their leading scorer and unsettled forward Gareth Bale, who was left out of the squad.
When careless play allowed Gerard Moreno to plunder an equaliser for Villarreal it looked as though Madrid’s recent struggles would continue, but Jesus Vallejo restored calm around the Santiago Bernabeu with his first goal of the season before Mariano netted his second.
Substitute Jaume Costa had the final say courtesy of a stoppage-time effort, with the result leaving second-placed Atletico Madrid within reach for Real, who will still be left to reflect on an underwhelming campaign even if they do catch their rivals.