Madrid: Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick as Real Madrid overcame an early goal and the second-half sending-off of Angel Di Maria to comprehensively beat city rivals Rayo Vallecano 6-2 at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday night.
While Madrid's attack regained its spark after back-to-back scoreless games, their defence was once again exposed by another team that is expected to be fighting to avoid relegation this season.
Coach Jose Mourinho tinkered with his starting 11 - Gonzalo Higuain got his first start of the season, while Raul Albiol made his season debut in defense alongside the 18-year-old Raphael Varane.
Madrid had lost to Levante last weekend and failed to beat Racing Santander in another disappointing result on Wednesday, but instead of reacting positively early on in this match, Mourinho's men got off to the worst possible start as they conceded after just 17 seconds.
Rayo in Spanish can mean lightning and the goal came like a bolt out of the blue for the home side as Miguel "Michu" Perez stunned the crowd and pounced on the rebound after Iker Casillas had spilled Raul Tamudo's effort from outside the box.
It was the fastest-ever goal by a visiting side at the Santiago Bernabeu and hardly the start Madrid were looking for after two very poor results in the last seven days.
It took a while for them to react, as well, and Rayo continued to look dangerous on the break.
Varane, in the side alongside Albiol as both Pepe and Ricardo Carvalho missed out through injury, shot wide for Madrid, and Kaka - in for Mesut Ozil - also came close, but Lass almost shocked the home side as he fired over after 25 minutes.
Three minutes later, the other Lass, Diarra, was substituted as Mourinho sent on Ozil, and Madrid improved instantly.
The German tested Dani Gimenez in the Rayo goal shortly after coming on and seven minutes before half-time, Madrid levelled, when Kaka set up Ronaldo and the Portuguese fired through the keeper's legs.
That was 1-1 and it soon became 2-1 as Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos combined for Higuain to give the locals the lead on the stroke of half-time with a simple finish.
After the break, Jose Maria upended Kaka and Ronaldo converted from the spot to make it 3-1.
Michu then reduced the deficit as he fired home at the far post, even though Casillas pushed the ball out. Replays shows the striker's effort had crossed the line.
And it looked as if the visitors may make a real game of it as Di Maria handled and was sent off for a second bookable offence.
Rayo, however, were unable to take advantage of the extra man and Varane's acrobatic shot from Ozil's corner in the 67th gave Madrid the cushion they needed to control the game the rest of the way.
Varane back-heeled to make it 4-1, before substitute Karim Benzema blasted a fifth and Ronaldo rounded off a comprehensive victory with his hat-trick seven minutes from time, netting his league-leading seventh goal also from the penalty spot in the 83rd after Gimenez fouled the Portugal forward in the area.
Also Saturday, Frederic Kanoute's first-half goal gave nine-man Sevilla a 1-0 win over 10-man Valencia to move into second place, one point behind leaders and cross-town rivals Real Betis, who play Getafe on Monday.
Villarreal drew 1-1 at 10-man Athletic Bilbao as the Basques remained winless under new coach Marcelo Bielsa.