Christiano Ronaldo won and missed a penalty, scored and was then sent off as Real Madrid came from behind to beat Almeria 4-2 at the Bernabeu in La Liga on Saturday.
Second half goals from Higuain, Benzema and Ronaldo spared Manuel Pellingrini's blushes after Madrid found themselves 2-1 down on the hour mark. Real looked to be cruising when Sergio Ramos headed them in front after 31 minutes but the visitors netted twice in four minutes midway through the second half to force a lively finish.
Real started brightly and were unlucky not to take the lead in the third minute, Van Der Vaart's strike from inside the area saved well by Diego Alves in the Almeria goal. But for some outstanding work by Alves, the visitors could have found the game beyond their reach in the first ten minutes. Ronaldo, starting his first match at home in two months, saw a stinging shot well saved, whilst Alves denied both Higuain and Granero at close range.
Real's dominance was rewarded in the thirty first minute when Almeria failed to clear properly a Ronaldo corner, the ball falling to Raul Albiol on the edge of the box. The centreback clipped a looping pass back out wide to Ronaldo, who brought the ball under control with his first touch and used the second to send a whipped cross into the box which was met decisively by the head of Sergio Ramos. Despite a flurry of other chances, Real went into the break only one goal up.
A more positive Almeria team took to the field for the second half. After weathering a spell of early Real pressure, striket Kalu Uche called Casillas into action for the first time in the match with a rasping shot that was well bundled round the post. The equaliser came a few minutes later. A cross from the left took a deflection off Arbeola and found its way through to Fernando Soriano on the edge of the six yard box. The striker's shot deflected off Albiol and flew past Casillias into the net. Within four minutes Almeria had a second. A corner from the right found Uche unmarked in the area, the striker bringing the ball down well before drilling it past the Real keeper to put Almeria into an unexpected lead.
The goal galvanised Real into action, although it wasn't until the seventy second minute that the equaliser came. In attempting to deal with a Marcelo cross, Chico could only poke the ball into the path of Gonzalo Higuain, who collected well before slotting the ball into the far corner.
Almeria then found the game put beyond them with two goals in the space of three minutes for Real. The first came in the eighty second minute, courtesy of a contentious penalty. Having been slotted through, Ronaldo tried to take the ball around Alves. The keeper appeared to get a hand on the ball before Ronaldo flung himself over his body. Ronaldo saw his attempt saved but Karim Benzema, replacing Van Der Vaart in the seventieth minute, was on hand to rifle the rebound into the top of the net.
A Ronaldo shot at the back post after some powerful wing play from Higuain gave Real some breathing space, but the Portuguese striker picked up a yellow card for taking his shirt off in celebration. That booking proved to be decisive less than five minutes later, when Ronaldo received a second yellow card for a petulant swipe at Juan Manuel Ortiz.
The sending off marred a fine display by Real's most expensive signing, who looked sharp on his first full run out. The result sees Madrid back to winning ways, after the 1-0 loss last Sunday to league leaders Barcelona. Their next game is away to Olympique Marseilles in the Champions League on Tuesday where anything but a heavy loss will see them through to the knock out stages.