Real Madrid registered their sixth consecutive victory in all competitions as two goals from Cristiano Ronaldo led them to a 2-1 victory over Celta Vigo.
Despite dominating for long spells in the first-half, Madrid couldn't find a way past Celta goalkeeper Javi Varas until just after the hour mark when Ronaldo swept home a loose ball from close range. The lead lasted barely two minutes as Iago Aspas's deflected effort wrong-footed Diego Lopez to bring Celta level.
However, for all his good work in the first-half, Varas was at fault for the winner as he clipped Kaka inside the area and Ronaldo stepped up to smash home the penalty for his 40th goal of the season. Jose Mourinho again choose to rotate his side after their 2-1 victory against Manchester United in midweek with only Lopez, Sami Khedira, Mesut Ozil and Ronaldo retaining their places in the side.
"We missed quite a lot of chances in the first half, but the team knew how to get through the difficult moments, fought hard and in the end the victory was deserved," said Real Madrid's Pep.
"As Real Madrid players we are very concentrated on what we have to do. It will be very difficult to fight for the league but any player that puts on the Madrid shirt always has to be motivated and honour the jersey."
Celta make early inroads
And Celta took advantage of Madrid's makeshift defence early on as Lopez had to be quick off his line to deny Aspas in the first minute. The Madrid keeper was then forced into two good saves in quick succession as again Aspas got in behind the Madrid defence and after his low drive had been turned behind, Lopez had to get down well to prevent Alex Lopez's deflected shot creeping in at his left-hand post.
Slowly, though, the visitors started to take a stranglehold of the game and only a host of saves from Varas prevented them going into the break with a comfortable lead. Ronaldo was first to test the Celta stopper with a low drive from distance before Karim Benzema shot straight at Varas after skillfully weaving a way through the Celta defence.
Varas did well again to repel Marcelo's low drive after the Brazilian had been released by a wonderful pass from Khedira ten minutes before the break and even when the Celta keeper did make a mistake, Madrid couldn't take advantage as Raul Albiol skied over after Varas had flapped at a corner.
The chances continued to flow for Madrid, though, as Jose Maria Callejon also failed to beat Varas when he should have scored and even Ronaldo couldn't find a way through as he crashed a header off the bar from Benzema's cross four minutes before half-time. Xabi Alonso was introduced for Khedira at the break and with the Spanish international orchestrating in midfield, Madrid continued to create plenty of chances.
Benzema was again denied by Varas with a bending shot from inside the area before Marcelo blazed over after being brilliantly played in by Alonso. The goal finally arrived for the visitors 16 minutes into the second-half as Ronaldo pounced on a loose ball inside the area after Callejon's shot had been blocked. However, the lead only lasted two minutes as from Celta's next attack Aspas spun inside the area and saw his shot deflect off Pepe and into the net with Lopez stranded.
The Madrid keeper then nearly gifted the hosts a second as a simple cross from the left slipped through his grasp and Raul Albiol had to react quickly to stop Mario Bermejo tapping home from barely a yard. Albiol's intervention proved to be vital as moments later Alonso's lovely scooped pass released Kaka and after he had been brought down by Varas, Ronaldo confidently slotted home his second goal of the evening from the penalty spot.
Celta pushed strongly for another equaliser in the dying minutes and came agonisingly close in stoppage time as Park Chu-Young's header hit the bar, but a fifth defeat in six games sees them remain in the bottom three.