Real Madrid again closed the gap to Barcelona at the top of La Liga to two points after James Rodriguez’s stunning strike sent them on the way to a 3-0 victory over Almeria at the Bernabeu on Wednesday. The Colombian opened the scoring with an unstoppable strike just before halftime, before an own goal from Mauro dos Santos and a late close-range finish from Alvaro Arbeloa sealed the victory.

After Barcelona’s brilliant 6-0 dismantling of Getafe the previous evening, Real Madrid fans will have been after something similar from their side. But, still missing Luka Modric, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema, Madrid failed to overwhelm opponents battling against relegation at the wrong end of the Liga table.

Indeed it took James’ memorable goal to get the hosts going on route to a crucial win ahead of Saturday’s trip to take on a high-flying Sevilla side. After an entertaining 4-2 win over Celta Vigo on Sunday, Madrid had started brightly, with James and Cristiano Ronaldo going close. But Carlo Ancelotti’s side quickly faded and Almeria were looking comfortable before James produced something special.

Similar to his Puskas-award winning goal in the World Cup for Colombia, James leathered the ball with breathtaking technique in off the crossbar. Almeria defender Trujillo had presented the 23-year-old with the chance with a poor defensive header, but James still had plenty to do to register his 16th goal in an increasingly impressive debut season for Real Madrid.

The three points were then effectively sealed when Madrid doubled their lead four minutes after the interval. Toni Kroos was played in cleverly down the right of the penalty box by Jese Rodriguez and, before it could reach Ronaldo in the middle, Dos Santos turned the ball beyond his own goalkeeper. The scoring was rounded out by a player not exactly known for his exploits in front of goal. There was good work down the left, first by isco and then from Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, who squared the ball across the face of goal for Arbeloa to turn into the net at the back post.