Cristiano Ronaldo fired Real
Madrid top of La Liga with a superb 14-minute hat-trick in a 4-0
win at Malaga as Barcelona were held 0-0 in a stormy encounter
at home to Sevilla on Saturday.
Gonzalo Higuain opened the scoring against Malaga and
Ronaldo, the world's most expensive player, rattled in three
more before the break to take Real's goal tally to 25 from their
last six games in all competitions.
Barcelona were denied by an inspired performance from
goalkeeper Javi Varas who crowned his display with a
stoppage-time penalty save from Lionel Messi as his side
finished with nine men at the Nou Camp.
Real climbed to 19 points from eight games, one ahead of
Barca. Unbeaten Sevilla are fourth with 16 points and
big-spending Malaga are sixth with 13.
"Our first half was fantastic and that's where we won the
game," Ronaldo told reporters.
"I haven't taken the match ball because I don't have space
for them all," he added, after his third three-goal haul this
Sporting Gijon logged their first win of the season with a
2-0 home victory over promoted Granada, first-half goals from
David Barral and Andre Castro dragging them off the foot of the
standings and easing the pressure on coach Manuel Preciado.
The Asturians pushed north-coast rivals Racing Santander
down to 20th on goal difference after Hector Cuper's winless
side suffered a 1-0 home defeat to Espanyol.
Both Malaga and Real had penalty appeals waved away in a
pulsating start at the Rosaleda, but the hosts were unable to
stay the pace as Jose Mourinho's side ripped into them.
Higuain rounded the keeper to score after a clever pass
behind the defence from his Argentina team-mate Angel di Maria.
Di Maria also laid on the second, his dipping cross from the
right being side-footed home by Ronaldo and the knockout blow
came when Malaga's defence parted for Ronaldo to fire in from
outside the area just five minutes later.
The Portuguese wrapped up his hat-trick with a back-heel
volley after a corner was headed back into the danger area in
the 37th minute.
Malaga restored some pride with a battling second-half
display, twice hitting the woodwork, but the damage had been
Sevilla goalkeeper Varas pulled off a string of impressive saves
against Barca and when he was eventually beaten in the second
half Andres Iniesta´s lob bounced on the crossbar.
Iniesta was brought down for a disputed penalty at the end
and Sevilla striker Frederic Kanoute was sent off, after first
kicking the ball off the penalty spot, and then tussling with
Cesc Fabregas as the visitors disputed the decision.
Varas saved Messi's spot-kick and Sevilla defender Fernando
Navarro was also sent off in the tense last seconds as he
brought down Pedro on the edge of the area.
"I think we played a good game, but goalkeepers also play
and we have to congratulate Varas for a great performnace
today," Barca coach Pep Guardiola said.
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