A brace from Cristiano Ronaldo helped Real Madrid to a 3-2 win over Valencia that ensures they go into the final day of the Liga season as Barcelona’s only challengers for the title.
Ronaldo’s 48th and 49th goals of another prolific season, which sandwiched a Karim Benzema strike, earned Zinedine Zidane’s side an 11th-straight league win to keep them within a point of champions Barca, who hammered Espanyol 5-0.
Victory moves Madrid above neighbours and Champions League final opponents Atletico, who lost 2-1 at already-relegated Levante to drop out of the title race, and means they visit Deportivo La Coruna next weekend knowing that a 12th win on the spin could see them overhaul Luis Enrique’s team in the most dramatic of circumstances.
Madrid were comfortable for much of Sunday’s game at the Santiago Bernabeu, with Valencia indebted to goalkeeper Diego Alves for restricting Ronaldo and co to three goals.
Ronaldo opened the scoring with an excellent finish midway through the first half, before Benzema added a second shortly before the interval.
Valencia reduced the arrears early in the second half through Rodrigo – who was later sent off – but Ronaldo’s 33rd Liga goal of the campaign just before the hour sealed the points, although Madrid did endure a nervy final eight minutes thanks to Andre Gomes’ late goal.
Ronaldo struggled to get involved in the early stages, but he was on hand to break the deadlock in the 26th minute.
Just seconds after forcing Alves into a good save low to his right, Ronaldo collected Marcelo’s pass and shot unerringly back across the keeper from 20 yards.
Key Opta stats:
– Karim Benzema has scored 24 goals in this La Liga season, his best goal tally in a league season.
– Real Madrid won a league game against Valencia at Bernabeu for the first time since December 2010.
– Cristiano Ronaldo has scored seven goals in his last seven appearances against Valencia in La Liga.
– James Rodriguez has been involved in more goals than any other Real Madrid midfielder in La Liga this season (seven goals, eight assists).
– Madrid have 11 wins in a row in La Liga, one off equalling their best run under Carlo Ancelotti (12 games).