Madrid: Cristiano Ronaldo continued his hot scoring streak as Real Madrid moved up to fourth in the La Liga table with a hard-fought 2-0 win away to Villarreal.
Real survived an early onslaught from Villarreal and won the game with two goals in eight minutes before the break as Luka Modric drilled home the opener before Ronaldo converted from Karim Benzema`s pass to register his eighth goal in a week.
A third consecutive league victory moves the European champions to within a point of the leaders with Barcelona hosting Granada later on Saturday, whilst Sevilla travel to champions Atletico Madrid.
"We`ve won a difficult game against a team that played well and caused us problems," said Real boss Carlo Ancelotti.
"But the team controlled the game. We suffered when we had to, played when we had to and I think in the end we showed a good attitude and deserved to win."
The match started at a high pace with attention from the action on the pitch only momentarily distracted by a banner from a Manchester United fans group begging Ronaldo to return to Old Trafford.
Ronaldo and his teammates had more pressing matters at hand as Villarreal threatened to go in front as Ikechukwu Uche`s low effort was well saved by Iker Casillas, whilst Argentine youngster Luciano Vietto sliced wide when well-positioned inside the box.
However, the hosts` profligacy in the final third contrasted with Madrid`s killer instinct and Anclelotti`s men went in front when Modric smashed home his first goal of the season from outside the box on 32 minutes.
The visitors doubled their advantage five minutes before half-time thanks to a classic counter-attack as James Rodriguez picked out the run of Benzema and the Frenchman brilliantly teed up Ronaldo to slot home his 13th goal in nine games this season.
Villarreal should have at least halved the deficit before half-time as Casillas made a fine double save from Manu Trigueros and Vietto before the offside flag spared Uche`s blushes as he fired the rebound over when presented with an open goal.
And even when the Spanish captain appeared beaten the ball still wouldn`t go in for Villarreal as Marcelo produced an incredible block to turn Trigueros`s volley over.
Madrid managed to contain Villarreal much better in the second period as Marcelino`s men ran out of steam.
Los Blancos rarely threatened to add to their lead as they reserved their energy ahead of a trip to Bulgaria where they face Ludogorets Razgrad in the Champions League on Wednesday.