| Ronaldo seals a precious away victory for Vicente del Bosque’s side with a poacher’s finish in Valencia Saturday. Goalkeeper Santiago Canizares watches helplessly while defender Miroslav Djukic’s best efforts prove futile. (AP)
Madrid: A classy double from Ronaldo helped Real Madrid to a 2-1 win over Valencia that saw them return to the top of the table Saturday as title rivals Deportivo La Coruna slumped to a 0-3 defeat at Celta Vigo in the Spanish League.
The results mean that Real lead the race on 71 points, two ahead of Real Sociedad, although the latter can reclaim top spot if they win their next match at Malaga.
Deportivo, who led the table two weeks ago, are now in third place on 66 points, and with just three games left to play Javier Irureta’s side has to rely on major slip-ups by the two rivals to have a chance of taking the title.
Celta Vigo’s victory means that they gain the edge in the race for the final Champions League berth and move a point ahead of Valencia.
World and European Player of the Year Ronaldo lived up to his billing with a sparkling performance at the Mestalla. The Brazilian opened scoring on 26 minutes with a rare headed goal, lurking among the Valencia defence before nodding in a swirling Luis Figo cross.
Valencia struck back six minutes later when midfielder Fabio Aurelio guided the ball in past goalkeeper Iker Casillas after some slick work by Pablo Aimar and John Carew.
But Ronaldo sealed a precious away victory for Vicente del Bosque’s side with a brilliantly taken winner midway through the second half.
Controlling a long ball from Figo with his toe, the Brazilian burst past defender Miroslav Djukic, rounded goalkeeper Santiago Canizares and clipped home to score his 19th goal of the season.
A last-gasp penalty from striker Ismael Urzaiz allowed Athletic Bilbao to scramble a 2-1 win over Racing Santander and increase their chances of claiming a Uefa Cup spot.
The win keeps the Basque side in sixth place, four points ahead of Atletico Madrid who came from behind to claim a 3-2 win over Villarreal.
Celta outplayed neighbours Deportivo throughout the game at Balaidos, but did not open the scoring until midfielder Jesuli dived in between four defenders to head home 13 minutes after the break.
Edu added a second six minutes later with another header when he beat Donato to connect with a fine cross from Alexander Mostovoi.
The Brazilian midfielder claimed his second when he poked in from close range after Deportico goalkeeper Jose Molina failed to hold a Mostovoi free-kick.
At the other end of the table, Rayo Vallecano were left staring relegation in the face after a goalless draw at home to fellow strugglers Osasuna.
The modest Madrid-based side must win their remaining three matches and hope that Osasuna fail to gain a point in theirs if they are to avoid the drop.