MADRID: Real Madrid moved to the top of La Liga for the first time this season as goals from Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and a James Rodriguez double handed them a 4-0 win at Granada.
Atletico Madrid also moved up to second, just a point adrift of their city rivals, with a 4-2 win at home to Cordoba.
It took Ronaldo just 100 seconds to register his 22nd goal of the season when he swept home Benzema’s cut-back to punish some lax Granada defending. There was nothing the hosts could do as Rodriguez doubled Madrid’s lead nine minutes before half-time, though, as the Colombian unleashed a sumptuous dipping volley into the far corner. Ronaldo returned the favour to Benzema as he slotted home the third early in the second-half before Rodriguez forced home his second of the afternoon from close range four minutes from time.
Victory takes Madrid two points clear of Barcelona, but the Catalans can reclaim top spot when they host Celta Vigo later on Saturday.
“We need to keep working to keep this run going,” said Real boss Carlo Ancelotti after seeing his side hit 46 goals over their last 11 games. “Rodriguez scored a fantastic goal, but so did Ronaldo from another Benzema assist. It is becoming hard to talk about Ronaldo because there are no words left to describe him.”
Ancelotti’s men were full of confidence after inflicting Barca’s first league defeat of the season last weekend and went in front with their first attack as Dani Carvajal robbed Jeison Murillo and Benzema squared for Ronaldo to slot low past Roberto.
Madrid threatened to run riot as Murillo blocked a goalbound shot from Benzema before Isco and Carvajal fired just off target.
RONALDO’S WONDERFUL BACKHEEL
However, Rodriguez applied the quality finishing touch his teammates had been lacking with a stunning volley reminiscent of his strike against Uruguay on his way to becoming the top scorer at the World Cup.
A wonderful backheel from Ronaldo teed up Benzema to make it 3-0 with his ninth goal of the season nine minutes into the second-half. Marcelo then crashed an effort off the crossbar on his weaker right foot as the visitors continued the search for more goals. Yet, it was Granada who should have reduced the deficit when Ruben Rochina was left with the goal at his mercy but fired straight into the body of the prone Sergio Ramos.
With an 11th consecutive victory in all competitions assured, Ancelotti could afford to withdraw Luka Modric and Isco with Tuesday’s Champions League clash with Liverpool in mind.
Right-back Carvajal is a doubt for that game as he limped off in the first-half to be replaced by Alvaro Arbeloa and the former Liverpool full-back should have scored a rare goal when his weak finish was turned behind by Roberto.
Rodriguez did finally make it four when he bundled Ronaldo’s wayward effort over the line late on.
Atletico continued their own four-match winning run going as Antoine Griezmann struck his first two league goals for the club. The French international was fortunate with the opening goal as his shot took a wicked deflection off Luso and flew into the far corner.
Cordoba were level just eight minutes into the second period as uncharacteristically slack marking from Atletico allowed Nabil Ghilas to head home at the back post from Fede Cartabia’s corner. However, Griezmann’s powerful header had too much for Juan Carlos at his near post to restore Atletico’s advantage just five minutes later.
Mario Mandzukic then made the game safe as he headed into an unguarded net after Carlos flapped at a Koke free-kick and another excellent cross from the Spanish international midfielder was flicked home by Raul Garcia to make it 4-1. Ghilas restored some pride for the visitors by volleying home his second goal of the game three minutes from time, but the Andalusians remain without a win after 10 games on their return to the top flight.