Real Madrid limp to victory

Higuain and Ronaldo inspire a lacklustre Real Madrid to victory over Celta Vigo in Spain’s Primera Division.

Real have room for improvement ahead of their midweek European Champions League visit to Borussia Dortmund [EPA]
Real have room for improvement ahead of their midweek European Champions League visit to Borussia Dortmund [EPA]

Gonzalo Higuain and Cristiano Ronaldo hit a goal apiece in either half as Real Madrid eased past Celta Vigo with a 2-0 victory on Saturday.

Argentine striker Higuain gave the current Primera Division champions a lead on 12 minutes before Ronaldo wrapped up the points with a second-half penalty for a Madrid side that never really got going against unambitious opposition.

Newly-promoted Celta, backed by noisy support, had won on their last two visits to the Santiago Bernabeu in 2004 and 2007 but never looked like repeating that feat this time.

The result means ‘los blancos’ move within five points of Barcelona and Atletico Madrid at the top of the Primera Division, having played a game more.

Injury woes

Coach Jose Mourinho needed to shuffle his pack after a number of players returned with injuries from international duty.

Brazilian international Kaka was called to start his first league game of the season while Raphael Varane took over in the centre of defence for only his second.

There was also room for recent signings Michael Essien and Luka Modric as Mourinho kept one eye on Wednesday’s Champions League tie at Borussia Dortmund.

It was Sergio Ramos, filling in at right-back, who had the first chance of the game when he headed a corner just over on three minutes and from that point a pattern of Madrid dominance was established.

By the 12th minute Madrid were ahead when Higuain powered down the left wing and hit what looked like a cross that curled into the top far corner.

Ramos almost made it two from close range and then Ronaldo headed over a cross from Higuain as Celta struggled to get into Real’s half.

On 25 minutes they did mount their first attack when the impressive Iago Aspas forced a way through the Madrid defence and produced a diving save from Iker Casillas.

The visitors were showing more signs of life with some neat passing but Madrid continued to look comfortable and could have doubled their lead on 37 minutes when Ronaldo clipped the bar with an inventive volley.

Kaka’s return

Unhappy with only the one-goal advantage at the interval Mourinho called time on Kaka’s return by replacing him with Angel Di Maria for the second period.

The half began at a slow pace until the 61st minute when Essien burst down the left flank and Ronaldo narrowly headed wide his cross.

Next it was Varane’s turn to head wide from a corner and Madrid’s anxiety was increasing as time ticked by with the single goal lead.

However, the referee came to Madrid’s rescue when he gave what appeared to be a contentious penalty when Mesut Ozil went down under a challenge from Gustavo Cabral on 68 minutes.

Ronaldo made no mistake from the spot to make it nine league goals for the season, one more than Lionel Messi and Radamel Falcao.

Substitute Jose Callejon forced a save from Celta’s reserve keeper Sergio Alvarez and Quique de Lucas did the same at the other end for the visitors.

Casillas was forced into another save from a Chu Young Park header before the game petered out with both sides seemingly content with the result.

Earlier, Malaga earned a 2-1 home victory over Valladolid. The visitors took an early lead when former Manchester United striker Manucho fired home after Omar Ramos had caused chaos in the Malaga defence with a mazy run.

A superb Isco levelled the game for Malaga before the interval, before Joaquin grabbed a winner on 87 minutes, only two minutes after blasting a penalty over the bar.

Manucho was sent-off late on for a Valladolid side unlucky not to share the points.

Source : AFP

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