Football

Monday, 15 May 2017 | MYT 5:24 AM

Real Madrid thrash Sevilla to home in on title

MADRID (Reuters) - Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 400th goal for Real Madrid as Zinedine Zidane's side closed in on a first La Liga title since 2012, easing to a 4-1 win over Sevilla on Sunday while Neymar hit a hat-trick for Barcelona, who thrashed Las Palmas 4-1.

The two sides are equal on 87 points with Barcelona leading the standings on their head-to-head record although Real have a game in hand against Celta Vigo next week and need only four points from their final two matches to take the title.

Defender Nacho Fernandez put Real ahead in the 10th minute with some quick thinking from a free kick, sidefooting the ball into the bottom corner and flummoxing Sevilla who were still preparing their defensive wall.

Nacho was a surprise inclusion in the starting line-up as Zidane rested Marcelo, Casemiro, Karim Benzema and Luka Modric for Wednesday's rescheduled game at Celta, the latest demonstration of his confidence in a talent-packed squad which has been a key factor in his side's march towards the title.

"This team has a lot of resources and what I like the most is the character we always show," Zidane told reporters.

"When the going gets tough we know we can always come out on top and will find solutions with our play. We fully deserved the victory."

Ronaldo netted his milestone goal in the 23rd minute from close range and then added number 401, restoring Real's two-goal advantage in the 78th with a curling shot into the top corner after Stevan Jovetic had pulled one back for Sevilla early in the second half.

"What more can I say about Ronaldo? He has something different, and his goal was something else," Zidane added.

"But more than the goal you have to remember what he has done until now. He's always there in the decisive moments."

COMFORTABLE WIN

Toni Kroos got the fourth goal in the 84th to add an extra shine to a comfortable last home win of the season for Real, who will play the Champions League final against Juventus next month with the possibility of winning a first league and European Cup double since 1958.

In the Canary Islands, Luis Suarez laid on a splendid pass for Neymar to open the scoring for Barca in the 25th minute and then the Uruguayan capitalised on a through ball from the Brazilian to lob over goalkeeper Javi Varas in the 27th.

Barca were already missing Gerard Pique through illness and Sergi Roberto because of a suspension when Javier Mascherano suffered an injury in the warm-up, meaning youngster Marlon Santos made his first start.

France international Lucas Digne was chosen in the unfamiliar role of right back due to the shortages in defence and risked getting sent off early with a last-ditch tackle on Jese but was only shown a yellow card.

Pedro Bigas pegged back the champions by sliding in to meet a cross from Kevin-Prince Boateng in the 63rd but Neymar quickly put Barca's minds at ease with two quick-fire finishes from close range in the 67th and 71st.

Atletico Madrid sealed the third automatic Champions League spot despite only drawing 1-1 at Real Betis and Sevilla were guaranteed fourth spot and a play-off berth in Europe's elite competition after Villarreal were held at home to Deportivo La Coruna, who clinched survival.

Sporting Gijon were relegated despite winning 1-0 at Eibar as tiny Leganes secured a 1-1 draw at Athletic Bilbao which ensured they remain in La Liga for another year after being promoted to the top flight for the first time last season.

Sporting will join Granada and basement club Osasuna, who were relegated last month, in the Segunda Division.

(Editing by Clare Fallon)

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