Ronaldo ensures Madrid beat rivals
Villarreal led through goals from Cani and Marco Ruben during a hugely impressive first-half display, but they were pegged back each time by strikes from Ronaldo. The second half belonged almost entirely to Real and Ronaldo gave the home side the lead they deserved with his third of the match ten minutes from time, and two minutes later he provided the pass for the fit-again Kaka to score his first goal of the season. The Brazil international has only just returned from a knee operation.
The victory means Real, who beat Villarreal 6-2 in last season's corresponding fixture, have now won 17 successive competitive matches at home and move back to within two points of leaders Barcelona. Villarreal remain in third spot, but they are now a massive 11 points behind Real in second.
"I am just doing my bit and I couldn't score all these goals without my team-mates," said Ronaldo. "There is a long way to go in the season and I want to continue in this vein and help Real Madrid win something important. The fans were great tonight and surprised me. We noticed it a lot in the second half when we fought back."
The Yellow Submarine looked capable of trimming the gap between the two - and ending Jose Mourinho's remarkable unbeaten home record in league matches, which stretches back almost nine years - after they enjoyed a flying start, opening up the Real defence with a fine move right from kick-off.
On that occasion Santi Cazorla saw his shot deflected just wide, but it was the start of what proved to be a torrid first period for the home defence. The next time the visitors had Real in serious trouble was in the seventh minute, and it resulted in the opening goal of the game. Giuseppe Rossi threaded the ball through on the edge of the box to Cani, who flicked a fine finish past Iker Casillas.
Villarreal's advantage lasted just two minutes though, before Real drew level with a superbly-worked goal. Karim Benzema and Mesut Ozil combined well on the edge of the area to put the latter in behind the Villarreal defence and the Germany international's pass was slotted in by the unmarked Ronaldo at the far post.
Despite that setback, Villarreal continued to play their attractive passing game and they retook the lead in the 19th minute through Ruben's excellent finish. Ruben raced onto Bruno Soriano's through-ball before lifting the ball over the out-rushing Casillas as Real appealed in vain for an offside flag.
That looked set to be the half-time scoreline, but Ronaldo had other ideas and he drew the teams level again just before the break, getting to Xabi Alonso's free-kick ahead of Villarreal goalkeeper Diego Lopez to glance the ball in. Real could consider themselves fortunate to be on level terms at the break, but it was a different story after the break as the hosts found themselves increasingly camped in Villarreal territory.
Ronaldo and Angel Di Maria both blazed decent shooting opportunities over before Benzema was denied by Lopez at his near post. Ronaldo spurned a great opportunity in the 64th minute after finding himself with just Lopez to beat. Perhaps thinking he was offside, the Portugal international dithered on the ball and in the end the shooting chance was lost.
Rossi threatened on a rare Villarreal counter-attack before Real went close again, Benzema once more being denied by Lopez. A Real goal was looking increasingly likely, and it duly arrived in the 80th minute through Ronaldo. He was unable to make the most of his first opportunity but he managed to regain possession before spinning and firing a low left-footed shot into the corner of the net.
That was Ronaldo's 22nd league goal of the season, his fourth hat-trick of the campaign and means he has now scored 64 goals in just 62 appearances since his world-record transfer from Manchester United in 2009. Ronaldo was not done yet though, and he turned provider soon after to help substitute Kaka wrap up the points with a neat finish.
Mourinho celebrated that goal in front of the Villarreal bench, which did not go down well with the visitors, one of whom threw a water bottle in the direction of the Portuguese. It missed, but the referee raced over to brandish a red card to one of the Villarreal contingent on the sidelines.