Cristiano Ronaldo struck a
late goal to help Real Madrid beat third tier Ponferradina 2-0
away in a King's Cup last-32, first-leg match on Tuesday, as the
holders looked to recover from their demoralising 'Clasico'
defeat by Barcelona at the weekend.
Jose Callejon gave an under-strength Real side the lead in
the 30th minute and, after defender Raul Albiol was sent off in
the 70th, Ronaldo responded to criticism of his performance
against Barca by sprinting clear to notch the second goal.
The Portugal forward barely celebrated with a grim look on
his face, and was substituted after a subdued showing minutes
later, to a mixture of whistles and applause.
"Cristiano is fine, he is an extraordinary player," Real
sports director Miguel Pardeza told Spanish television when
asked how Ronaldo was handling some negative press.
"If something marks him out from many other players it is
that he never gives up on a chance to play, and always gives his
all whatever the circumstances.
"No one should doubt his commitment, his personality or his
abilities as a player."
The only upset on the night was Levante, who are fourth in
La Liga, losing 3-1 at recently relegated Deportivo La Coruna, and
second division Cordoba beating local top flight rivals Real
The 2008 Cup winners Valencia and misfiring Villarreal were
held at third tier Cadiz and Mirandes respectively, while Real
Zaragoza and Espanyol drew away to second division opponents.
La Liga strugglers Racing Santander, in the hands of a
temporary coaching trio, came back from 2-1 down to snatch a 3-2
win at home to Rayo Vallecano with a double from Christian
Stuani and a late strike from fellow Argentine Ariel Nahuelpan.
An early Frederic Kanoute strike gave Sevilla a 1-0 win at
third tier San Roque while Malaga and Sporting Gijon won by the
same scoreline over Getafe and Real Mallorca respectively.
Xabi Prieto netted twice as Real Sociedad thumped Granada
4-1 and Osasuna were 3-1 winners at Almeria, who finished with
nine men. The second legs are scheduled for next week.
A steady rain fell on a packed stadium in the old mining
town of Ponferrada, but hopes of an upset against nine-times
European champions Real soon disappeared.
Jose Mourinho's side were still smarting from their 3-1 home
defeat by Barca on Saturday and, although weakened, included
players such as Kaka, Gonzalo Higuain and Ronaldo.
Callejon fired Sami Khedira's cross into the top corner to
put the visitors ahead but Ponferradina, who play at the same
level as Real Madrid's youth team, did not cave in.
The hosts ran their socks off. Yuri saw an impressive
overhead kick fly straight at Real keeper Antonio Adan and Luis
Domenech struck the bar just after the break.
Albiol picked up a second yellow card to leave Real with 10
men but they reacted in the 74th minute when Higuain broke
forward and fed Ronaldo who squeezed his shot under the keeper.
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