Marcelo saves Real Madrid after Ronaldo misses penalty vs. Valencia
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Real Madrid needed a late goal by Marcelo to make up for Cristiano Ronaldo's missed penalty and secure a 2-1 win over Valencia that kept it on track for the Spanish league title on Saturday.
The victory left Madrid three points ahead of Barcelona before the defending champions visit Espanyol later. Madrid also has a game in hand and can ensure its first Liga crown in five years if it wins all its four remaining matches.
Madrid hosts crosstown rival Atletico Madrid on Tuesday in the first leg of their Champions League semifinal. Atletico visits Las Palmas also on Saturday.
Ronaldo put Madrid ahead in the 27th minute when Valencia's markers lost track of the Portugal forward, leaving him alone to nod in Dani Carvajal's cross.
Ronaldo had an excellent chance to add to his 20 league goals this season in the 57th after a questionable penalty when Luka Modric fell after contact with Dani Parejo.
But Valencia's penalty-stopping expert Diego Alves smothered his strike, taking his tally to six saved spot kicks on the season and 26 saves in 53 penalties since playing in the Spanish league. Three of those saves have come against Ronaldo.
Parejo leveled in the 82nd by expertly bending a free kick up and over the wall. Goalkeeper Keylor Navas got a hand to the strike but couldn't keep it out.
Facing a damaging blow to its title hopes, Madrid right back Marcelo cut inside to open an angle around two defenders before curling the ball home.
Ronaldo gave Madrid's supporters a late scare when he stumbled over a Valencia player and slammed his right side into the goalframe. After a brief moment receiving attention from the medical staff, Ronaldo returned to finish the match.
Karim Benzema sent a shot off the post for Madrid early in the second half, while Valencia's Santi Mina hit the woodwork two minutes into the match.