| Ronaldo celebrates with teammate Zinedine Zidane after scoring Real Madrid’s first goal against Deportivo La Coruna in Madrid on Sunday. (AFP)
Madrid: Real Madrid beat Deportivo La Coruna 2-1 in a fast and furious game at the Bernabeu on Sunday to extend their perfect home league record and stay two points clear at the top of the table.
Ronaldo put Real ahead in the final minute of the first half but Deportivo hit back in the 63rd minute when Walter Pandiani scored within 15 seconds of coming on as a substitute.
Real, needing to win to stay clear of Valencia at the top, got the winner five minutes from time when Raul turned in a cross from Roberto Carlos.
The result gave Real 36 points from 16 matches and kept them two points ahead of Valencia, who had briefly gone top after winning 1-0 away to Real Betis with an own goal from Juanito. Deportivo stay third, now six points behind the leaders, with Osasuna fourth on 27 points after a goalless draw away to Racing Santander.
Osasuna could, in fact, find themselves two points better off, after Racing briefly exceeded the limit on non-European Union players in their side.
Coach Lucas Alcaraz quickly rectified the situation but in recent years the Spanish Football Federation have punished similar slip-ups by awarding victory to the opposing side.
Real’s eighth successive home league win since the start of the season came courtesy of two precise close-range finishes from strike partners Ronaldo and Raul.
“When a player like Raul is in form it’s easy to guess he’s going to score,” said Real coach Carlos Queiroz.
Deportivo had the best chance in a fast-paced first half, with unmarked midfielder Juan Carlos Valeron blasting over when the ball broke to him in the area from a free-kick after 20 minutes.
The breakthrough came in the final minute of the first half when Zidane controlled Ivan Helguera’s lofted pass with two deft touches of his right foot and crossed with his left for Ronaldo to side-foot the ball past Molina at the far post.
The tempo of the game dropped in the second half until Deportivo brought on Uruguayan striker Pandiani, who made a dramatic impact. After just a few seconds on the pitch he controlled a Valeron pass and slotted the ball neatly past Iker Casillas.
A second goal finally arrived five minutes from the end when Roberto Carlos exchanged passes with Zidane out wide on the left and crossed for an unmarked Raul to touch the ball past Molina.
Roma in lead
In Italy, AS Roma went clear at the top of Serie A on Sunday after a Francesco Totti penalty gave them a 1-0 win against a determined Modena.
The result means Fabio Capello’s team lead the league by three points from AC Milan, who have a game in hand after their match against Siena was postponed until January 28 because of Sunday’s World Club Cup match against Boca Juniors, won by the Argentines.
Earlier, champions Juventus sent out a warning to their title rivals with a 4-0 demolition of Parma in Turin. Juventus maintained third place overall on 29 points, one behind Milan.
Roma started aggressively and took an eighth-minute lead when defender Jacopo Balestri tripped Totti just inside the area and referee Domenico Messina pointed to the spot.
Shortly afterwards, defender Matteo Pivotto was forced to clear off the line to prevent Norwegian international John Carew doubling the home side’s advantage, but Modena grew in confidence as the match progressed.
Roma, however, hung on to maintain their 100 per cent win record at the Olympic Stadium this season.
The 7-0 midweek thrashing of Olympiakos in the Champions League has boosted Juventus’ morale and coach Marcello Lippi kept his promise of using only in-form players, omitting striker Alessandro Del Piero in favour of an attacking partnership of Marco Di Vaio and Fabrizio Miccoli.
The decision paid off after just 10 minutes when Miccoli steered Pavel Nedved’s cross past Parma keeper Sebastien Frey.
The ex-Perugia striker made it 2-0 in the 31st minute, firing home from the edge of the area.
Parma looked toothless in the second half and Del Piero took only two minutes to find the net after coming on in the 68th minute. He then set up Nedved for Juventus’ fourth.