Real Madrid back on top

MADRID: Trademark goals from Roberto Carlos and Ronaldo helped Real Madrid move back into provisional top spot in the Spanish First Division with a 3-1 win at home to Valladolid on Saturday. 

Real were trailing 1-0 when Roberto Carlos smashed in a free-kick from the edge of the box on 19 minutes. 

Two minutes later his Brazilian teammate Ronaldo collected a through ball and hammered it into the top left-hand corner to put his side ahead, with Javier Portillo striking late to secure the win. 

While Real had to struggle to see off Valladolid’s challenge in what was a dour game, Deportivo Coruna and Barcelona were both able to enjoy far more satisfying home victories. 

Diego Tristan led the way for Depor with a hat-trick in their 6-0 demolition of Alaves, Dutchman Roy Makaay adding another two and Albert Luque rounding off the proceedings. 

Barca also had a hat-trick hero in Javier Saviola as they showed just how much they have improved since the arrival of Radomir Antic in place of Louis van Gaal with a 4-0 win over Real Betis. 

Saviola opened the scoring by beating Toni Prats at his near post on two minutes and Philip Cocu doubled the lead four minutes later with a powerful header from Xavi’s corner. 

Saviola got the third just before half-time, turning the ball back in after Prats had half cleared, and the Argentine forward completed his hat-trick early in the second half by finishing off a fine move involving Michael Reiziger and Gaizka Mendieta. 

Victory for Real took them top of the table with 45 points from 23 games. Real Sociedad, with 44 points, can reclaim the league leadership if they win at home to Osasuna on Sunday. 

Deportivo’s victory allowed them to join Valencia on 42 points in fourth place, behind the reigning champions on goal difference, while Barcelona climbed up to eighth on 30 points after a second successive league win under Antic. 

With Luis Figo and Zinedine Zidane both missing, Real were a long way from their best and Valladolid were in charge for much of the game. 

Fernando Sales put the visitors ahead on 10 minutes, heading in to an empty net as Iker Casillas misjudged a right-wing cross. 

Sales missed a chance to double their lead on 15 minutes, Casillas making amends for his earlier error by turning the Valladolid forward’s header round the post.  

Real took advantage of that let-off to take charge with the two goals from their Brazilians. 

Valladolid then regained the initiative but created few clear-cut chances and Real clinched victory with Portillo’s late strike, the young striker turning in a Roberto Carlos cross from close range. 

“It wasn’t a good game,” Real coach Vicente del Bosque said. “In fact, it was probably one of our worst performances with me as coach. We made a great effort in physical terms and had to suffer to keep the game under control. The best thing about the game was the result.” – Reuters 

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