La Liga: Higuain nets four in Real thriller in Madrid
Gonzalo Higuain struck all four goals as 10-man Real Madrid won an astonishing encounter against Malaga at the Bernabeu on Saturday night.
Higuain was the star man on a crazy night in the Spanish capital, which saw Madrid trail three times and have Sergio Ramos sent off in the first half before the champions finally prevailed to claim their seventh win of the season.
The match was a rollercoaster affair that also produced three penalties, eight yellow cards and enough incident to ensure the encounter will be talked about for a long time to come.
Madrid started the clash amid talks of crisis following three defeats in their last five outings, and those alarm bells started to ring a little louder when Malaga took the lead inside six minutes.
Eliseu was both the architect and the scorer of the goal, although there was also a degree of fortune thrown in as well.
The Portuguese did superbly to skip around the challenges of Marcelo and Gabriel Heinze and although his cross was cut out by Fernando Gago, the Madrid midfielder's attempted clearance struck the post and Eliseu was on hand to take advantage of the lucky break to slot home.
Madrid would have been desperate to avoid just such a start, but Bernd Schuster's men showed good fighting spirit to get back on level terms almost immediately.
Guti's neat pass put Marcelo through, and when the Brazilian's rasping shot was parried by Francesc Arnau, Higuain was on hand to tap the rebound into the empty net.
Madrid then laid siege to the Malaga goal with Dutch trio Wesley Sneijder, Rafael van der Vaart and Royston Drenthe all going close, before the visitors stunned their hosts by re-taking the lead in the 18th minute.
Duda sent a low cross in from the left and Nabil Baha got in behind Heinze to power a first-time shot past the helpless Iker Casillas, with the home side left appealing in vain for offside.
Malaga, roared on by a sizeable and noisy support, were understandably brimming with confidence at that stage and they looked more like the home side as they caused Madrid more than a few headaches with their fast breaks.
That was not enough to keep Malaga ahead until half-time though, as Madrid equalised through Higuain's penalty eight minutes before the interval.
Malaga centre-back Welington inexplicably stuck out an arm to block Higuain's attempted scoop through to Guti and, after referee Eduardo Iturralde Gonzalez had deemed the offence to have taken place inside the box, the Argentinian rifled home the resulting penalty.
An exciting first half then ended in controversial circumstances with Ramos being shown a straight red card after standing on the chest of Eliseu following a challenge on the Malaga goalscorer near the halfway line.
The difference in numbers was not immediately obvious at the start of the second half with Madrid giving as good as they got.
Malaga's decision not to go all-out on attack looked justified when in the 70th minute they took the lead for the third time through Apono's penalty.
Duda went crashing in the box under Gago's clumsy challenge and Apono sent the visiting fans wild by smashing his spot-kick in off the underside of the bar.
That could have been the end of Madrid, but Higuain, not for the first time, had other ideas.
Just moments after Apono had put Malaga ahead, Higuain charged at the heart of the Andalusian side's defence before lashing a low 25-yard effort into the bottom corner to level the scores up at 3-3.
That was not the end of the goalscoring though, as Higuain then astonishingly put Madrid ahead seven minutes later having won another penalty.
Higuain went crashing as he attempted to squeeze between two Malaga defenders to get on the end of a cross, and although it looked a debatable decision, the Madrid striker took advantage as he slotted home at the second attempt after Arnau had saved his penalty.
Incredibly, Madrid almost added a fifth when Van der Vaart got in behind the visiting defence, but although he could not take advantage, it did not prove costly as the champions held out for a remarkable and morale-boosting victory.
Barcelona went back to the top of La Liga after they thumped Vallodolid 6-0.
Barca blew their visitors out of the water in the opening half at the Camp Nou with Samuel Eto'o bagging four goals.
Eto'o notched his first in the 12th minute when Dani Alves threaded a ball through the Vallodolid defence, allowing the Cameroon international to cut inside and finish with his left foot.
It was 2-0 on the half hour when Eto'o turned home Thierry Henry's rebounded shot from 12 yards.
Three minutes before the break Eto'o completed his hat-trick, rounding Sergio Asenjo after a cute ball from Lionel Messi.
Just two minutes after that Eto'o bagged his fourth after a Messi dribble deflected off a defender right into his path.
In a perhaps predictably lacklustre second half Barca squandered a number of chances with the visitors just content to try and prevent a heavier beating.
But they went five down when Eidur Gudjohnsen dinked a shot over Asenjo after a through ball from Henry.
Henry finally got on the scoresheet after being set-up by another former Arsenal player, substitute Alexander Hleb.
Hleb swapped passes with Xavi and squared for Henry when Asenjo came out to meet him. The win now means Barca already have a goal difference of plus 26.