Cristiano Ronaldo inspired Real
Madrid to a rampaging 5-1 win at Osasuna as the leaders hit the
100-goal mark this season and maintained a six-point lead over
chasing Barcelona on Saturday.
Barca responded with a 2-0 home win over Athletic
Bilbao when Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi, with a penalty, saw
off the side they will play in the King's Cup final in May.
Jose Mourinho's Real, on 78 points, moved a step closer to
their first league title in four years with eight matches left
ahead of Barca who now have 72.
Fourth-placed Malaga lost 2-0 at home to Real Betis to stay
on 47 points.
Ronaldo took his tally to a league-leading 37 and laid on
further goals for Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain as Real
notched their first La Liga win in Pamplona since they last
lifted the title in 2008.
"The thought doesn't even enter my head that we won't win
the league," the Portuguese forward told reporters. "We're well
situated, there are eight games left and we have to believe
we're going to win."
It was a typically intense battle in the compact and
intimidating Reyno de Navarra stadium but Ronaldo brought the
noise level down almost from the start.
After only seven minutes, he swung a cross to the far post
for Benzema to stroke a spectacular volley back into the far top
corner before arrowing in a 30-metre thunderbolt himself.
When Higuain scampered away to lob the third just before the
break it effectively ended the match as a contest.
Osasuna's Nino nodded one back for the hosts just after the
restart but Ronaldo squashed thoughts of a comeback with a
freekick that deflected through the wall in the 70th and he
crossed for Higuain to head a second soon after.
At the Nou Camp, both sides rested key players with European
commitments on their minds, and the champions found it hard
going against one of the season's outstanding performers.
Having had only 48 hours to prepare after a Europa League
match at Schalke 04, Bilbao started to wilt as half-time
approached and Iniesta burst into the area to hammer the opener
high into the net.
Bilbao threw on all their forwards in the second half but
fell further behind when Cristian Tello was bundled over in the
area after 58 minutes, and Messi tucked away the penalty for his
36th league goal of the season.
Real Zaragoza's impressive bid to avoid relegation gathered
momentum with a third consecutive win, Angel Lafita poking in a
low cross in the last minute for a 2-1 win at fellow strugglers
Cash-strapped Zaragoza climbed off the foot of the standings
for the first time since early December, moving up to 18th with
28 points, three from the safety zone.
Racing Santander lost 1-0 at home to Granada after conceding
an 89th-minute penalty and slipped one place to 19th with 25
points, the same as Sporting who are now bottom.
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