Cristiano Ronaldo earned a straight red card after kicking an opponent late in Real Madrid’s 2-1 win at Cordoba on Saturday as Gareth Bale snatched a winner for the Spanish league leaders with an 89th-minute penalty.
The victory put Madrid four points ahead of Barcelona before it visits Elche later. Madrid will still have another game in hand.
Ronaldo had been held in check until the 82nd when his frustration boiled over as he lashed out in anger at defender Edimar. He also swiped the face of another Cordoba player following the kicking incident.
Ronaldo strolled off the pitch, taking time to gesture to the patch on his shirt for Madrid winning the Club World Cup in December. The gesture earned the Ballon d’Or winner jeers from the Nuevo Arcangel crowd.
With Madrid facing a costly draw at a modest rival, Wales winger Bale earned a free kick and sent his strike into the defensive wall, where Fede Cartabia used his hand to block it. Bale then converted the resulting spot kick to grab the valuable three points.
Bale had already set up Karim Benzema to level in the 27th after Cordoba’s Nabil Ghilas opened the scoring with a penalty two minutes in.
But it was all Cordoba until the surprising chain of events in the final 10 minutes, as the hosts threatened to grab a winner.
Ronaldo finished without a clear scoring chance in the match. His best effort was a free kick which sailed high in the first half.
Cordoba, whose only victory over Madrid dates back to 1967, got a perfect start when Sergio Ramos used his hand to stop Tiago ”Bebe” Dias’ cross inside the area. Ghilas stepped up and coolly slotted his spot kick beyond goalkeeper Iker Casillas.
The hosts were the more dangerous side with a series of counterattacks led by Bebe, a winter reinforcement and former Manchester United player.
Bebe shot wide in the 18th before Benzema got Madrid’s equalizer when he fired a corner kick headed on by Bale into the top of the net.
Instead of fading, Cordoba stayed in control and began bossing the match in the second half.
Cartabia saw his strike go by the post in the 55th, and two minutes later Bebe charged forward again, only to roll a shot into Casillas’ arms.
Striker Florin Andone went even closer in the 68th when he muscled Raphael Varane out of the way to win a ball up for grabs. He then watched as his chipped try went over Casillas and bounced off the turf and the crossbar.
Cordoba also finished with 10 men when Cartabia was booked a second time for handling Bale’s free kick.
Also later, third-place Atletico Madrid hosts Rayo Vallecano, Villarreal welcomes Levante, and Eibar visits Real Sociedad.