VIGO, Spain (Reuters) - Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema twice combined with Toni Kroos to continue his insatiable scoring run as the visitors earned a 3-1 win over Celta Vigo on Saturday to move within three points of La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid.
Benzema curled a shot into the bottom corner to give Real the lead in the 20th minute after being released by a fine piece of play from Kroos, who danced past a defender before taking out three more with a pass into the feet of his team mate.
Germany midfielder Kroos was also involved in the second goal on the half-hour mark, winning the ball back on the edge of the box and allowing Benzema to dribble across the box and score his eighth goal in six matches in all competitions.
Santi Mina headed Celta back into the game in the 40th minute following a free kick and the hosts improved after the break while Real ran out of steam.
It took a strong save from visiting goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to prevent Iago Aspas levelling in the second period. Aspas later saw a free kick deflected off the post.
But Real found a third goal deep in stoppage time when Frenchman Benzema crowned his exceptional display by sending in a cross to Marco Asensio, who walked the ball over the line to score his second goal in two games after netting in Wednesday's 3-1 win over Atalanta in the Champions League.
Real moved above Barcelona into second place on 60 points from 28 games behind Atletico, who host Alaves on Sunday before the Catalans, who have 59 points, visit Real Sociedad.
Celta are 11th on 34 points.
"We've been earning lots of wins lately and snatching draws from losing positions and we're heading into the final stretch of the season full of confidence," said Real defender Nacho Fernandez.
Benzema had scored three crucial late goals in his previous two league outings for Real, rescuing a 1-1 draw at Atletico two weeks ago and leading a 2-1 comeback home victory over Elche last Saturday.
Zinedine Zidane said after the Elche win that his side had to score earlier in games to avoid more heart-stopping finishes and they took his advice on board, going ahead midway through the first half and consolidating their lead 10 minutes later.
"It's never easy to play here so we're very happy with the victory," added Nacho. "Even though we conceded a goal from a set piece due to poor marking, I think overall we played well and were solid at the back."
(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Christian Radnedge and Ken Ferris)