This day in history of Ronaldo
MADRID, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Ronaldo scored his 16th league goal of the season to help Real Madrid reclaim top spot on Saturday with a 2-1 win at home to Villarreal.
Argentine midfielder Santiago Solari, playing in place of the injured Zinedine Zidane, opened the scoring after 14 minutes, squeezing a shot under the body of Villarreal keeper Pepe Reina.
Real continued to press and their second goal came nine minutes into the second half when Guti picked up a loose ball on the edge of the box and passed for Ronaldo to sweep into the roof of the net.
Sergio Ballesteros headed in from a corner four minutes from time to give Villarreal hope but Real held on to extend their perfect home record in the league this season.
Victory for Real took them back above Valencia at the top with 46 points from 21 games. Valencia, who have 44 points and a game in hand, will have to win at home to sixth-placed Osasuna on Sunday to reclaim top spot.
Atletico Madrid edged even further clear in the race for fourth place, and the final Champions League qualifying slot, with a 1-1 draw at Albacete.
Nano put Atletico ahead after 31 minutes with a deflected free kick but Matias Lequi turned a low right-wing cross into his own net for the Albacete equaliser on the hour.
Atletico now have 35 points, two more than fifth-placed Villarreal who failed to live up to their glowing reputation at the Bernabeu as they allowed Real to dominate without playing brilliantly themselves.
"I think we showed a lot of character and strength in our tackles and in the way we played as a whole," said Real's England midfielder David Beckham.
"We have to be happy with our performance. This was always going to be difficult after a midweek Cup game."
Real's opening goal owed much to a mistake from Villarreal keeper Reina.
Luis Figo set up the chance by riding a couple of challenges on the edge of the box before squirting a pass towards Solari, who fired in a shot that Reina should have saved easily.
Reina redeemed himself with two good saves from Beckham but there was nothing he could do about Ronaldo's instinctive blast for the second shortly after the break.
Ronaldo missed with a point-blank chance that should have made the game safe a few minutes later and Villarreal gave themselves a chance of an unlikely comeback when Ballesteros headed in at the near post from a Juliano Belleti corner.
Ballesteros went down under a challenge from Beckham in the area in the second minute of injury time but the Villarreal defender's only reward was a yellow card.
By Kevin Fylan