Gareth Bale scored the opening goal as Real Madrid beat Villarreal to go top of La Liga.

The Welshman chipped home after seven minutes and assisted Karim Benzema's close-range second.

Mario Gaspar pulled one back with a fierce first-time drive but Jese put Real Madrid in control with a delicate finish.

Giovani Dos Santos scored a brilliant free-kick for the visitors but Benzema sealed it from 18 yards.

Real Madrid, who were without the suspended Cristiano Ronaldo, are now unbeaten in 23 games in all competitions.

And they lead the Spanish league on goal difference after rivals Atletico Madrid lost 2-0 to Almeria. Barcelona, who visit Sevilla on Sunday, could overtake both sides on goal difference with a victory.

Ronaldo's replacement in the team, Bale, took only seven minutes to make his mark when he took the ball off dawdling defender Jose Antonio Dorado to charge into the box and lift the ball over keeper Sergio Asenjo.

He then put in a cross for Benzema, which the France international tucked home at the near post.

Right-back Mario fired past Diego Lopez late in the first half to give the Yellow Submarine hope.

Real re-established their two-goal lead when Angel Di Maria played in 20-year-old Jese, who touched the ball past Asenjo to score for the fourth game in a row.

Giovani curled home a fantastic free-kick from 25 yards out but Benzema clinched the victory from the edge of the box after Jese had laid the ball off to him.

Lineup, Bookings (2) & Substitutions (6)

Real Madrid

  • 25 López
  • 15 Carvajal
  • 12 Marcelo (Fábio Coentrão - 18' )
  • 24 Illarramendi
  • 03 Pepe
  • 04 Ramos
  • 19 Modric
  • 22 Di María (Alonso - 68' )
  • 09 Benzema
  • 11 Bale
  • 20 Jesé

Substitutes

  • 01 Casillas
  • 02 Varane
  • 05 Fábio Coentrão (Arbeloa - 45' )
  • 14 Alonso
  • 17 Arbeloa
  • 21 Morata
  • 23 Isco

Villarreal

  • 01 Asenjo
  • 02 Perez Martinez Booked
  • 18 Costa Jordá Booked
  • 28 Ramos Gómez (Trigueros Muñoz - 58' )
  • 05 Musacchio
  • 16 Dorado Ramírez
  • 17 Aquino
  • 21 Soriano Llido
  • 09 dos Santos
  • 24 Pereira (Perbet - 68' )
  • 27 Gómez Bardonado (Román Ollé - 63' )

Substitutes

  • 03 Jokic
  • 06 Pantic
  • 07 Perbet
  • 12 Román Ollé
  • 14 Trigueros Muñoz
  • 20 de Abreu
  • 35 Fernández Abarisketa
Ref: José Luis González González
Att: 75,624

Match Stats

Shots

13 10

On target

6 3

Corners

6 3

Fouls

10 7

Live Text Commentary

Full time

Full Time Match ends, Real Madrid 4, Villarreal 2.

90:00 +2:10 Full time

Full Time Second Half ends, Real Madrid 4, Villarreal 2.

90:00 +1:40

Corner, Villarreal. Conceded by Álvaro Arbeloa.

89:58

Attempt blocked. Joan Román (Villarreal) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Giovani dos Santos.

89:25

Foul by Daniel Carvajal (Real Madrid).

89:25

Joan Román (Villarreal) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

88:59

Foul by Daniel Carvajal (Real Madrid).

88:59

Joan Román (Villarreal) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

87:05

Corner, Real Madrid. Conceded by Joan Román.

82:57

Asier Illarramendi (Real Madrid) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

82:57

Dangerous play by Joan Román (Villarreal).

80:20

Luka Modric (Real Madrid) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

80:20

Foul by Manu Trigueros (Villarreal).

75:24 Goal scored

Goal! Goal! Real Madrid 4, Villarreal 2. Karim Benzema (Real Madrid) right footed shot from outside the box to the bottom left corner. Assisted by Jesé following a fast break.

75:12

Attempt blocked. Manu Trigueros (Villarreal) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked.

74:52

Foul by Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid).

74:52

Jérémy Perbet (Villarreal) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

74:21

Attempt missed. Gareth Bale (Real Madrid) left footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the left. Assisted by Xabi Alonso.

73:12

Foul by Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid).

73:12

Mateo Musacchio (Villarreal) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

72:36

Corner, Real Madrid. Conceded by Mario.

72:33

Attempt blocked. Álvaro Arbeloa (Real Madrid) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Jesé.

71:49

Attempt missed. Jesé (Real Madrid) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the right.

70:44

Hand ball by Jesé (Real Madrid).

68:16 Goal scored

Goal! Goal! Real Madrid 3, Villarreal 2. Giovani dos Santos (Villarreal) from a free kick with a left footed shot to the bottom left corner.

67:42 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Real Madrid. Xabi Alonso replaces Ángel Di María.

67:23 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Villarreal. Jérémy Perbet replaces Jonathan Pereira.

66:46

Foul by Luka Modric (Real Madrid).

66:46

Jonathan Pereira (Villarreal) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

63:26 Goal scored

Goal! Goal! Real Madrid 3, Villarreal 1. Jesé (Real Madrid) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the bottom right corner. Assisted by Ángel Di María.

62:07 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Villarreal. Joan Román replaces Moi Gómez.

60:12

Luka Modric (Real Madrid) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

60:12

Foul by Manu Trigueros (Villarreal).

59:32

Luka Modric (Real Madrid) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

59:32

Foul by Giovani dos Santos (Villarreal).

58:05 Booking

Booking Mario (Villarreal) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

58:00

Jesé (Real Madrid) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

58:00

Foul by Mario (Villarreal).

57:06 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Villarreal. Manu Trigueros replaces Edu Ramos.

56:31

Dangerous play by Asier Illarramendi (Real Madrid).

56:31

Jonathan Pereira (Villarreal) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

54:36

Daniel Carvajal (Real Madrid) hits the left post with a right footed shot from the right side of the box. Assisted by Gareth Bale.

53:59 Booking

Booking Jaume Costa (Villarreal) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

53:50

Gareth Bale (Real Madrid) wins a free kick on the right wing.

53:50

Foul by Jaume Costa (Villarreal).

53:01

Foul by Álvaro Arbeloa (Real Madrid).

53:01

Giovani dos Santos (Villarreal) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

50:17

Corner, Real Madrid. Conceded by Chechu Dorado.

45:00

Second Half begins Real Madrid 2, Villarreal 1.

45:00 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Real Madrid. Álvaro Arbeloa replaces Fábio Coentrão because of an injury.

45:00 +1:00 Half time

Half Time First Half ends, Real Madrid 2, Villarreal 1.

45:00 +0:29

Offside, Villarreal. Javier Aquino tries a through ball, but Giovani dos Santos is caught offside.

44:47

Attempt blocked. Gareth Bale (Real Madrid) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.

44:20

Corner, Real Madrid. Conceded by Sergio Asenjo.

44:18

Attempt saved. Ángel Di María (Real Madrid) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the top centre of the goal. Assisted by Daniel Carvajal.

43:29

Corner, Real Madrid. Conceded by Jaume Costa.

42:06 Goal scored

Goal! Goal! Real Madrid 2, Villarreal 1. Mario (Villarreal) right footed shot from the right side of the box to the top left corner. Assisted by Javier Aquino.

37:57

Foul by Daniel Carvajal (Real Madrid).

37:57

Moi Gómez (Villarreal) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

36:15

Attempt blocked. Moi Gómez (Villarreal) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Jonathan Pereira.

35:06

Attempt blocked. Moi Gómez (Villarreal) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Giovani dos Santos.

34:27

Corner, Villarreal. Conceded by Jesé.

28:06

Attempt missed. Giovani dos Santos (Villarreal) left footed shot from outside the box is too high. Assisted by Edu Ramos.

27:39

Offside, Real Madrid. Jesé tries a through ball, but Karim Benzema is caught offside.

26:42

Attempt saved. Gareth Bale (Real Madrid) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the top centre of the goal. Assisted by Karim Benzema.

26:07

Karim Benzema (Real Madrid) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

26:07

Foul by Chechu Dorado (Villarreal).

24:06 Goal scored

Goal! Goal! Real Madrid 2, Villarreal 0. Karim Benzema (Real Madrid) right footed shot from the right side of the six yard box to the bottom right corner. Assisted by Gareth Bale with a cross.

21:04

Corner, Villarreal. Conceded by Sergio Ramos.

21:03

Attempt blocked. Moi Gómez (Villarreal) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Jaume Costa.

20:34

Foul by Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid).

20:34

Jonathan Pereira (Villarreal) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

18:55

Attempt saved. Edu Ramos (Villarreal) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Giovani dos Santos.

17:34 Substitution

Substitution Substitution, Real Madrid. Fábio Coentrão replaces Marcelo because of an injury.

15:41

Delay over. They are ready to continue.

15:15

Delay in match Marcelo (Real Madrid) because of an injury.

9:32

Offside, Villarreal. Jaume Costa tries a through ball, but Giovani dos Santos is caught offside.

9:27

Attempt blocked. Luka Modric (Real Madrid) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Karim Benzema.

7:47

Attempt missed. Jonathan Pereira (Villarreal) left footed shot from the centre of the box is too high.

6:13 Goal scored

Goal! Goal! Real Madrid 1, Villarreal 0. Gareth Bale (Real Madrid) left footed shot from the centre of the box to the bottom left corner.

2:20

Offside, Villarreal. Jonathan Pereira tries a through ball, but Giovani dos Santos is caught offside.

1:07

Attempt missed. Ángel Di María (Real Madrid) left footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the left. Assisted by Daniel Carvajal following a corner.

0:44

Corner, Real Madrid. Conceded by Chechu Dorado.

0:00

First Half begins.

0:00

Lineups are announced and players are warming up.

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