Celta Vigo 2 Real Madrid 4: Hernandez to the rescue again
Javier Hernandez's Real Madrid resurgence continued with a vital brace in Sunday's 4-2 win at Celta Vigo to keep the capital club within two points of La Liga leaders Barcelona.
The Mexico striker netted the crucial winner in Real's 1-0 defeat of Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday and he proved decisive once again as Carlo Ancelotti's men made hard work of a vibrant Celta side.
Former Barca winger Nolito opened the scoring for Celta with a fine individual effort early on, though any celebrations in the Catalan capital will have been short-lived as Toni Kroos quickly equalised.
Hernandez, again playing in place of the injured Karim Benzema, put the visitors ahead, but their risky high defensive line allowed Santi Mina to score his fifth goal in three games before the half-hour mark.
James Rodriguez's deflected effort just before the break gave Real the lead once again, though the second half proved a serious assessment of their credentials, the visiting defence withstanding periods of intense pressure.
Nevertheless, Hernandez coolly stroked home the clincher with 21 minutes to go, sparing Ancelotti's blushes once again as Real avoided a repeat of last season's crucial slip-up at Balaidos which ended their title hopes.
A repeat of that result had been on the cards as Celta's positive start was rewarded with just nine minutes played. Nolito brilliantly slalomed between Dani Carvajal and Asier Illarramendi cutting in from the left flank, before tucking a shot just inside the left-hand post.
But Real's reply was swift, restoring parity just seven minutes later.
Cristiano Ronaldo caused havoc in the Celta backline with a darting run into the right side of the area and Kroos was on hand to steer home in emphatic fashion from 12 yards despite Hugo Mallo's initial interception.
Hernandez completed the turnaround in the 24th minute, placing a cool finish under Sergio Alvarez after combining with Rodriguez down the right to devastating effect.
But Celta rallied and hit back within a few moments, as Mina raced beyond the Real defence and finished at the second attempt, after hitting the post when running on Iker Casillas' goal.
Real's chances of retaking the lead before the break seemed to end with Ronaldo striking the post in the 40th minute, though luck proved to be on their side in their next attack, Rodriguez finding the net from 20 yards via a deflection off Andreu Fontas.
Celta enjoyed victory at Barcelona in November and showed no sign of holding back. Their attacking endeavour perhaps should have been rewarded with a penalty near the hour when Kroos tripped Fabian Orellana in the box.
However, Real were happy to hit on the counter and Sergio Ramos' exquisite chipped pass released Hernandez to clinically beat Alvarez to cap a fine week individually and seal a result for Real which keeps life in Spain's title race.