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April 23, 2016

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Gareth Bale scored twice as Real Madrid overcame a two-goal deficit to keep the pressure on its rivals at the top of the Spanish league with a 3-2 win at Rayo Vallecano on Saturday.

Already without injured Cristiano Ronaldo, Madrid lost Karim Benzema near the end of the first half, three days before its Champions League semifinal first leg at Manchester City.

Rayo stunned Madrid by taking a 2-0 lead by the 14th minute, thanks to goals by Adrian Embarba and Ladislao "Miku" Fedor.

Bale pulled one back before Benzema went off with a leg injury and was replaced by Lucas Vazquez, who came through with a headed goal in the 52nd.

Just when Madrid's rally was sputtering, Bale intercepted a pass and raced forward to score the 81st-minute winner.

"Bale is a spectacular player who scores decisive goals," Vazquez said. "We now can turn to the Champions League with a lot of confidence."

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Madrid provisionally moved two points ahead of Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.

Barcelona hosts Sporting Gijon later Saturday, and Atletico welcomes Malaga.

With only three more matches after this round, Madrid could not have gotten off to a worst start.

Always attacking, no matter how intimidating the opponent may be, Rayo went at Madrid from the whistle.

Winger Bebe provided a constant threat throughout the first half, and he produced the first goal when he dribbled at Pepe and slipped the ball across for Embarba to sweep past Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas.

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Rayo's fans burst into wild celebrations as the rain came down on Vallecas Stadium, and the team responded by pressing for another goal which came when Miku fired in after a corner kick that Madrid failed to clear.

Until then, the only threat from Madrid had been Bale's shot off the post. But the Welshman boosted his team when he rose up to head in a corner in the 35th.

Madrid's attack took another injury hit when Benzema asked to be substituted, apparently because of pain in his right leg.

But Vazquez rose to the occasion in place of Benzema, fending off a defender as he jumped to head Danilo's cross into the corner of the net.

Bale completed the fightback when he pounced on Embarba's risky pass back toward his defense. Bale used his speed to race into the area before shooting under goalkeeper Juan Carlos Martin.

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