Cristiano Ronaldo scored a
clever backheel to lift Real Madrid to a 1-0 success at battling
city rivals Rayo Vallecano on Sunday that equalled the club
record of nine straight away wins.
The Portuguese international pounced on a loose ball at a
54th-minute corner and sent it through a crowd of players into
the net for his 29th goal of the season, two ahead of Barca
forward Lionel Messi at the top of the scoring chart.
Real's victory at promoted Rayo's sun-drenched stadium in
the south east of the Spanish capital put Jose Mourinho's side
13 points clear of second-placed Barcelona ahead of the
champions' game at Atletico Madrid.
Mid-table Rayo, hosting their more illustrious neighbours
for the first time in nine years, had the best chance of the
first half when forward Piti crashed an angled shot past Iker
Casillas that hit the inside of a post and bounced away along
Real were missing winger Angel di Maria and striker Karim
Benzema, both injured, and struggled to create chances against a
resolute Rayo, who were coming into the game on a run of three
consecutive wins and were roared on by their flag-waving
faithful enjoying the warm weather.
They made Real suffer in the closing stages and squandered
three clear chances for an equaliser, first when Sergio Ramos
gave the ball away in a dangerous position.
It eventually fell to Michu but he skewed his shot over the
bar before Casillas was forced into a superb diving save that
stopped a thunderous long-range strike from Jose Manuel Casado.
Michu was shown a straight red card two minutes from time
for a relatively innocuous-looking tackle from behind on Real's
Germany midfielder Sami Khedira and Rayo forward Emiliano
Armenteros somehow failed to score when the ball fell to him on
the line with Casillas stranded.
In an entertaining match earlier on Sunday, Athletic Bilbao
missed a chance to climb above Levante into fourth and a
Champions League qualification place when they were held to a
2-2 draw at improving Villarreal.
The home side, whose season has been wrecked by injuries to
key players, took a 10th-minute lead through former Spain
midfielder Marcos Senna before goals from Fernando Llorente and
Markel Susaeta put the Basque club 2-1 ahead.
Nilmar equalised in the 68th minute to leave Villarreal in
17th on 27 points and Bilbao in fifth on 34, one behind Levante,
who won 2-1 at seventh-placed Espanyol on Saturday.
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