Madrid wins 4-2 thriller at Celta to stay in title hunt

Madrid wins 4-2 thriller at Celta to stay in title hunt

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Javier Hernandez scored twice as Real Madrid fought back for a thrilling 4-2 win at Celta Vigo on Sunday to keep the pressure on Spanish league leader Barcelona.

Four days after Hernandez's late goal put Madrid into the Champions League semifinals, the Mexico striker struck a brace to assist an injury-depleted Madrid hold off Celta's vigorous challenge & stay two points behind Barcelona with five rounds left.

Celta forward Manuel "Nolito" Agudo scored in the ninth minute to start a five-goal flurry in the first half.

p>Goals from Toni Kroos & Hernandez put Madrid ahead, Celta's Santi Mina equalized for 2-2 & James Rodriguez restored Madrid's advantage in the 44th.

With Celta pressing forward after the restart, Hernandez used a superb touch to control Sergio Ramos' pass before netting in the 69th to secure victory.

Hernandez had struggled to find minutes this season since arriving on loan from Manchester United, yet he has made the utmost of his last two starts since Karim Benzema went down with a leg injury. His 88th-minute goal on Wednesday eliminated Atletico Madrid & put Madrid into the final four of Europe's top club competition.

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RC Celta’s Augusto Fernández from Argentina, left, fights for the ball against Real Madrid's Isc …

"I wasn't having a satisfactory time, & now I am enjoying this moment. I love being on the pitch," Hernandez said. "I'm pleased for the people close to me, those who told me that I had to have faith that my time would come."

Also on Sunday, Sevilla beat Rayo Vallecano 2-0 thanks to goals from Vicente Iborra & Daniel Carrico to provisionally move past Valencia into fourth place.

Almeria moved out of the relegation zone by beating struggling Eibar 2-0, its second consecutive home win under new coach Sergi Barjuan, while Deportivo took its place in the bottom three after drawing 1-1 at Malaga.

With six attacking players in its starting 11, coach Eduardo Berizzo's lineup left no secret that Celta was looking to outscore its star-studded rivals.

The goals shortly arrived as Celta attacked in waves, leaving Cristiano Ronaldo & his teammates with lots of room to run rampant on the other end.

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Real Madrid's Toni Kroos from Germany in action during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between RC …

"When they play like that they leave open a lot of space, & when Madrid has space it is much more dangerous," Rodriguez said. "I think we are the deserved winners. These three points put us in the position to fight until the end."

Celta, which beat Madrid here 2-0 last season & gave Barcelona fits in a 1-0 loss earlier this month, received out to an electric start.

Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti was moreover without the injured Gareth Bale & Luka Modric, handing a chance to little-used midfielder Asier Illarramendi.

Illarramendi was shortly exposed when he lost the ball in attack, & sprinted back only to watch Nolito dribble between him & Dani Carvajal before driving in a low strike.

Rodriguez helped Madrid hit right back with two goals to quiet down the Balaidos Stadium.

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Real Madrid's Chicharito from Mexico is congratulated by his teammates after he scored a goal du …

The Colombian played Ronaldo through & his squared pass deflected off a Celta defender before falling for Kroos to blast into the corner of the net in the 16th minute.

Hernandez then exchanged passes with Rodriguez before slotting the ball under goalie Sergio Alvarez in the 24th.

Mina leveled four minutes after when Fabian Orellana met his run with a perfectly timed pass, & the 19-year-old striker did the rest by finishing off the rebound after his initial shot hit the post.

The constant back-and-forth continued as Joaquin Larrivey tested Madrid goalie Iker Casillas before Ronaldo hit the post in the 41st.

Ronaldo then spotted Rodriguez arriving unmarked, & the midfielder struck a shot that grazed the inside of Andreu Fontas' leg before trickling inside the upright.

Celta started the second half just like the first, with midfielder Michael Krohn-Dehli directing its attack. The hosts mounted nine dangerous incursions in the first 20 minutes that kept Madrid under pressure.

Soon after that, Hernandez sealed the win.

"Am I pleased (with how we played)? No. I don't even like losing at Parcheesi," said Nolito, referring to the board game. "We tried competing with them, yet their fourth goal killed us."

Real MadridJavier HernandezCelta VigoAtletico MadridJames RodriguezBarcelona

Source: “Associated Press”

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