Cristiano Ronaldo answered his critics with a hat-trick as Real Madid came from behind to win 4-1 at Alaves and provisionally go three points clear at the top of La Liga.
Alaves forward Deyverson pounced on an error by Real goalkeeper Keylor Navas to give the home side a shock lead in the seventh minute but the Brazilian gave away a controversial penalty in the 17th for handball, which Ronaldo calmly converted.
The Portuguese put the European champions in charge in the 33rd with a powerful strike that deflected off Zouhair Feddal beyond the reach of former Real goalkeeper Fernando Pacheco.
Pacheco did manage to turn away another penalty by Ronaldo in the second half but Real’s all-time top scorer netted his first treble of the season in the 88th after substitute Alvaro Morata had stretched Real’s lead four minutes earlier with a delightful chip.
Real are top of the standings on 24 points, three clear of Sevilla, who drew 1-1 at Sporting Gijon. Champions Barcelona can cut the gap with Real to two points when they host Granada later on Saturday.
Real coach Zinedine Zidane praised his side for how they reacted to going behind, although their third straight victory was tainted by the sight of defender Pepe going off injured in the first half.
“If you do not suffer, you cannot win La Liga. We kept our heads cool even in difficult moments, which always occur in this league,” said Zidane.
Ronaldo had been questioned going into the game after making his worst start to a season with Real, scoring only two goals in six starts, but he is now Zidane’s top scorer in the league with five strikes.
His opening goal, from the spot, incensed the home side, as referee Jose Maria Sanchez Martinez harshly penalised Deyverson for blocking Gareth Bale’s free-kick with his arm, the ball appearing to strike his shoulder.
Alaves coach Mauricio Pellegrino was sent off late on for protesting against another decision by the referee.
“It wasn’t an easy game at the start or in the second half. It’s a deserved victory for us although it might look harsh on our opponents,” added Zidane.
Luciano Vietto got Sevilla off to a dream start at Sporting by squeezing the ball under Ivan Cuellar in the fourth minute, only for Moi Gomez to level with a volley in the 20th, denying them a club-record-breaking start.