James Rodríguez
James Rodríguez celebrates a goal for Real Madrid against Celta Vigo on Sunday. Reuters

James Rodríguez brought Real Madrid’s La Liga clash with Almeria to life with a spectacular goal right before halftime. Chasing down Barcelona at the top of La Liga, Madrid had created little of note for the first 43 minutes at home to opponents languishing at the wrong end of the table. Until that is, James struck his 16th goal for the club since arriving from Monaco last summer.

The quality of the strike was reminiscent of that against Uruguay in last year’s World Cup, which went on to win the FIFA Puskas award for best goal in 2014. Almeria defender Trujillo failed to get another purchase on his header on the edge of his own box, fatally directing straight into the path of the Madrid man. James showed no hesitation, striking it on the half-volley to send the ball flying past goalkeeper Ruben and in off the crossbar.

The Colombian returned from injury earlier this month after two months out of the team and has been hugely influential in Real Madrid’s recent revival after a mid-season slump. And it has been a successful first season for the 23-year-old, having earned his big-money move following a starring role in Brazil last summer for his country.

His latest goal could prove vital for Real Madrid. Carlo Ancelotti’s squad began the day five points behind Barcelona in La Liga after the Catalans' 6-0 win over Getafe on Tuesday. Madrid are also looking forward to next week’s Champions League semifinal first leg against Juventus, as they eye the prospect of becoming the first team to win back-to-back titles.