Ronaldo scores twice as Real sets new club record
BARCELONA - The Associated PressCristiano Ronaldo scored a brace to give Real Madrid a hard-fought 3-2 win at Real Betis on March 10, setting a club record 10th straight away victory in Jose Mourinho’s 100th game at the helm of the runaway Spanish league leader.
The win kept Madrid on course for its first league title in four seasons as it extended its advantage to 13 points over Barcelona ahead of the defending champions’ game at slumping Racing yesterday.
After Jorge Molina had opened the scoring for Betis, Madrid’s Gonzalo Higuain leveled and Ronaldo put the visitors in front.
Betis forward Jefferson Montero quickly scored to make it 2-2, but Ronaldo fired in a rebound for the 73rd-minute winner to secure Madrid its 11th league win in a row.
“It was difficult, but we knew what we were going to face here,” Higuain said. “Fortunately, we were able to win and maintain our 10-point lead.”
Earlier that day, Malaga took hold of Spain’s last Champions League spot through a 1-0 win over Levante thanks to Jose Rondon’s second-half header.
Ronaldo, who reached 40 goals in all competitions, also stayed on pace to break his own league record of 40 goals from last season by taking his tally to 32 goals with 12 games to play.
Higuain got another nod in strike with Karim Benzema just back from injury resting on the bench with Madrid set to play CSKA in the Champions League this week.
After goalkeeper Fabricio Agosto had parried Ronaldo’s early attempt, Betis grabbed a surprising lead after 10 minutes.
Molina charged through the area to volley strike partner Ruben Castro’s pass into the upper left corner of the net and finish off a lightening counterattack that caught Madrid off balance.
The Argentina striker ran onto Mesut Özil’s long pass and held off his marker before firing a right-footed blast beyond Agosto to take his league scoring tally to 17 - a distant third best behind Ronaldo and Barcelona’s Lionel Messi (28).
“It was a crazy game. In any moment either team could have won,” Mourinho said. “Neither team was able to establish its defense or take control.”
The hosts came out of halftime looking to carry the weight of the attack, but Ronaldo instead netted for Madrid in the 52nd.
Betis responded just three minutes later when Montero blasted in a poor clearance by Alvaro Arbeloa off a corner to quickly even the score at 2-2.
Ronaldo then capped the victory for Real.
Betis clamored for a penalty in vain when it appeared that Ramos blocked a goal-bound strike with his arm in the dying moments.
“I am happy my team won, but I think the 3-2 was unfair,” Mourinho said. “A draw would have been a just result. Betis deserved more.”
At La Rosaleda stadium, Malaga snatched a third straight victory in the league over Levante. The win lifted Malaga into fourth place - two points clear of Levante.