Cristiano Ronaldo powers Real Madrid to victory vs. Celta Vigo
BARCELONA, Spain — Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 12th goal in as many games to help Real Madrid to a deceptively tough 3-1 win at second-place Celta Vigo on Saturday and provisionally increase its Spanish league lead.
Ronaldo and Danilo gave Madrid a two-goal lead at Balaidos Stadium by the 23rd minute, but Madrid needed goalkeeper Keylor Navas to protect the advantage before Celta lost Gustavo Cabral to a second yellow card in the 57th.
Despite playing a man down, Manuel ”Nolito” Agudo got a deserved goal for the hosts in the 85th and Celta almost leveled before Marcelo scored Madrid’s last goal just before the final whistle.
Celta’s first loss of the season left Madrid as the only undefeated team in the 20-team league.
Madrid rose three points clear of both the Galician club and defending champion Barcelona, which hosts Eibar on Sunday.
Madrid coach Rafa Benitez attributed his team’s shaky showing to tired legs from Wednesday’s 0-0 draw at Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League.
”It’s positive for the group that they know that we can win points while struggling,” Benitez said.
Elsewhere, Kevin Gameiro scored a hat trick in Sevilla’s 5-0 win over 10-man Getafe, while Granada drew 1-1 with Real Betis to stay in the relegation zone.
Even though he was eventually beaten by Nolito, Navas had another outstanding performance between the posts for Madrid since taking it over from club legend Iker Casillas this summer.
Navas, who set a club record with five straight clean sheets to start the season, conceded just his third goal in 12 matches overall.
The Costa Rica keeper made four excellent saves in the first half and consistently bailed out Madrid’s backline that was overrun by Celta’s attacking trio of Nolito, Fabian Orellana and Iago Aspas.
”Honestly, Navas stopped four clear goals. You have to congratulate him, I don’t know how he did it,” said Nolito, who scored his seventh goal in the league to match Ronaldo’s haul. ”I take away our effort with only 10 men. We have to be happy despite the loss.”
Still without injured stars Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema, Ronaldo ensured Madrid got off to a great start in the eighth when he passed to Lucas Vazquez before making a clever run to slip behind Celta defender Jonathan Castro and receive Vazquez’s return pass before slotting home.
Celta searched for an equalizer during a promising 10-minute stretch that included several chances, the best of which was a powerful shot from Orellana that Navas palmed away in the 18th.
But Castro left Celta’s left side of the area completely undefended for Danilo to size up goalie Sergio Alvarez and double the lead.
Unfazed, Celta surged forward with the same attacking verve that had produced a stunning 4-1 win over Barcelona last month before Lionel Messi injured his knee.
The difference was Navas, who made three more superb interventions before halftime to block Daniel Wass’ free kick before saving efforts from Aspas and Pablo Hernandez after they were set up by Nolito.
Other than Madrid substitute Francisco ”Isco” Alarcon hitting the woodwork in the 69th, Celta dominated possession and the flow of play even after Cabral was sent off for protesting.
Marcelo cleared Nolito’s shot off the line in the 72nd before the forward finally bettered Navas with a pinpoint strike just inside the top corner, sparking a determined rally by Celta that came up just short of a second goal when substitute John Guidetti missed from close range.
In Seville, Gameiro struck twice in the 35th and 45th before adding a penalty when Getafe’s Carlos Vigarary was sent off after Ever Banega had made it 3-0 for Sevilla from another spot kick. Yevhen Konoplyanka scored a third penalty for Sevilla’s fifth goal late.
Granada’s Dimitri Foulquier stole the ball and scored in the sixth, only for teammate Ruben Perez to commit a clumsy handball and let Ruben Castro convert a spot kick for Betis in the 40th.
Deportivo La Coruna visits Malaga later.