Real Madrid extend winning streak to 20 matches with win at Almeria

Cristiano Ronaldo ensured Real Madrid will finish 2014 as the league leaders, five points ahead of second-place Barcelona.

Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Real Madrid ruthlessly punished Verza’s penalty miss as it secured a 4-1 La Liga triumph to make it 20 wins in a row Friday.

Madrid bettered the 18-game winning streak set by Barcelona in 2005-06 when it beat Ludogorets Razgrad in the Champions League on Tuesday. Almeria, on the other hand, stretched its winless streak at home to nine matches and is 18-place on 10 points.

”Almeria fought very hard all match, pressing hard,” said Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti. ”We had some problems but in the end our quality shone through and we deserved to win.”

Iker Casillas produced an excellent stop to keep out Verza’s second-half spot kick at the Estadio de los Juegos Mediterraneos as the host passed up the chance to make it 2-2. That miss was made to look even more costly when Cristiano Ronaldo’s amazing season continued with a late brace to give the final scoreline a flattering gloss for Real.

Verza had earlier shown his finishing prowess when his stunning long-range strike in the 39th minute canceled out Isco’s well-taken opener. The European champion was ahead by the break, though, as Gareth Bale headed home Toni Kroos’ cross.

Ronaldo’s goals then proved enough for Real to extend the longest winning streak by a Spanish team, and the Liga leader will travel to Morocco to contest the Club World Cup with a five-point gap over rival Barcelona, which plays Getafe on Saturday. By contrast, Almeria still is searching for a first league win since September and will hope that Juan Ignacio Martinez – who now takes over as head coach – can reverse its fortunes.

DRAWING UP CONCLUSIONS

After initially struggling to assert itself Real grew into the game and in the 13th minute Kroos’ excellently controlled volley cannoned off the crossbar via a deflection. Ronaldo showed the first glimpse of his talent soon after with a marauding run down the left and his cross forced Almeria goalkeeper Ruben to come out quickly to smother Karim Benzema’s shot.

Real was largely frustrated in the attacking third by a stern Almeria defense, but the host’s resistance was broken in the 34th minute. Benzema’s cross from the right picked out Isco at the back post, and the Spain international dummied to shoot before cutting inside Michel and curling his effort past the despairing Ruben.

The visitor was caught off guard just five minutes later, though, as Almeria levelled from Verza’s expert 30-yard volley that nestled in the bottom right-hand corner. However, Almeria was not level long as slack defending allowed Bale to head home Kroos’ excellent centre four minutes before the break.

The Welshman should have done better when he burst clear in the 55th minute, only to hold the ball too long and overhit his side-foot pass to the wide open Ronaldo. Ronaldo then saw a drilled shot from the edge of the box saved low by Ruben, before Almeria were handed a lifeline in the 62nd minute.

Referee Alfonso Alvarez harshly adjudged that Marcelo had fouled Edgar Mendez in the penalty area, but the underdogs could not capitalize as Casillas produced a fine save low to his left from Verza’s effort. Ronaldo, who had endured a frustrating evening to that point, rubbed salt in the wound nine minutes from time when he played a one-two with Benzema and slid the ball into the unguarded goal.

The Portuguese then bagged his 25th league goal of the season in the 89th minute when he drilled home Dani Carvajal’s cross from close range.

”We’ve won with that little bit of good fortune after we went up 2-1, and it was important to save that penalty,” said Casillas.

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