THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
BARCELONA, Spain — Midfielder Mesut Ozil scored two exquisite goals to give Real Madrid a 3-2 comeback win at promoted Valladolid in the Spanish league on Saturday.
Madrid rebounded from its last away loss at Real Betis with a valuable three points that cut the gap with Barcelona to eight points before the league leader’s tough visit on Sunday to the Seville-based side.
"I’m very happy for my game but, above all, for the victory at such a difficult ground," said Ozil. "The most important thing are the three points and that we stay in the fight. There is a lot of league left."
Jose Mourinho’s star-studded squad struggled to overcome two first-half goals by Manucho, who dominated both areas in attack and with his defensive help on set-pieces.
Karim Benzema and Ozil scored to pull Madrid even after Manucho had put Valladolid ahead twice to end the first half 2-2.
Knowing the defending champions could not drop any more points, Mourinho threw on extra attacking players as Madrid’s nerves began to fray with Cristiano Ronaldo being booked for complaining.
Valladolid held firm and made its own incursions into Madrid’s area until defender Henrique Sereno conceded a dangerous free kick on the edge of the area.
Instead of Ronaldo, who had scored from a free kick in last weekend’s win over Atletico Madrid, Ozil stepped up and curled an unstoppable strike off the underside of the crossbar in the 72nd minute to grab the victory.
"My goal from the free kick was beautiful," said the Germany international. "I was confident I could put it in."
Elsewhere, Valencia won 1-1 at Osasuna in the debut of coach Ernesto Valverde. Malaga thrashed struggling Granada 4-0 to rise into provisional fourth place, and Real Sociedad defender Carlos Martinez scored an injury-time equalizer to secure a 1-1 home draw with Getafe.
Valladolid struck first through Manucho’s seventh-minute goal. Patrick Ebert swung in a corner kick that two Valladolid players touched to set up the Angola striker to push into the net from inside the six-yard box.
The cheers at Jose Zorilla Stadium were silenced five minutes later when Jose Callejon’s pressure paid off. The former Espanyol forward pounced on Mikel Balenziaga’s poor pass, drew goalkeeper Daniel Hernandez off his line and passed for Benzema to score.
Manucho put the hosts back in front in the 22nd as he held off Sergio Ramos with ease and powered in Ebert’s corner kick for his second close-range goal of the match.
"No question we have to improve our defence on set-pieces," said Ramos.
Valladolid lost Ebert to an apparent leg injury in the 26th. Even so, it looked set to go into halftime with the lead until Ozil dribbled through various defenders before laying off for Benzema, who returned the ball with a nifty back-heeled pass for Ozil to roll under Hernandez in the 45th.
Mourinho sent on forward Angel Di Maria and playmaker Luka Modric early in the second half for his left and right backs, leaving Madrid with only two natural defenders.
After Valladolid failed to take advantage of Madrid’s thin backline, Ozil looped a perfect shot over the defensive wall that left Hernandez without hope of saving.
"It’s a pity that we gave up the second goal in the 45th minute in such a critical moment," said Valladolid coach Miroslav Djukic.
It was Madrid’s third win in its last eight visits to Valladolid, which remained in seventh place after just its second home loss this season.
In Pamplona, striker Roberto Soldado scored in the 56th to give Valencia its first away win this season in eight games. It was the first goal Osasuna had allowed in five rounds.
Malaga beat visiting Granada thanks to goals by Joaquin Sanchez, Javier Saviola, Ignacio Camacho and Roque Santa Cruz. Granada coach Juan Anquela is under increasing pressure with his team winless in four games and one point from safety in 17th place.
At Anoeta Stadium, Getafe’s Angel Lafita scored in the 86th, only for Martinez to head in Alberto de la Bella’s cross in stoppage time for the draw. Sociedad remained undefeated in five rounds and moved up into eighth place, two spots behind Getafe.
Also on Sunday, second-place Atletico Madrid hosts last-place Deportivo La Coruna. Levante hosts Mallorca, and Celta Vigo is at Athletic Bilbao. Rayo Vallecano plays Real Zaragoza on Monday.
Sevilla drew 2-2 at Espanyol on Friday.