MADRID: Ronaldo and Raul helped Real Madrid reclaim the leadership of the Primera Liga on Wednesday, producing stunning goals in an emphatic 2-0 win over neighbours Atletico in the Madrid derby at the Bernabeu.
Real made a dream start when Ronaldo scored within 15 seconds of the kickoff with a brilliant solo effort and the champions delivered the knockout blow when skipper Raul added a second 19 minutes later, heading in after a pass from David Beckham.
But arch-rivals Barcelona, who host Real at the Nou Camp on Saturday, could hardly have prepared for the game in worse fashion, crashing to a 5-1 defeat at Malaga in a contest that featured a classy hat-trick from striker Salva Ballesta.
Real now lead the table on 30 points, two clear of Valencia who drew 0-0 at Sociedad on Tuesday and three ahead of Deportivo, who were held to a disappointing 1-1 draw at in-form Valladolid.
This season's surprise package Osasuna moved up to fourth, a further four points back, after a gritty 1-0 win away to basement side Espanyol. Atletico drop to fifth on 22 points.
Even the most optimistic Real Madrid fans could hardly have hoped for a better start against their eternal rivals at the Bernabeu.
Zinedine Zidane fed the ball from the kickoff to Roberto Carlos, who slipped a quick pass to Ronaldo.
The Brazilian striker then swerved one defender, darted forward into the area, left keeper German Burgos on the grass with another shimmy and poked home into an empty net before Atletico had even had a first sniff of the ball.
Atletico recovered well from the early setback and appeared to be working their way back into the game, but Real hit them again 19 minutes later after a superb piece of vision from Beckham.
Picking the ball up two metres inside his own half, the England captain saw that Raul had lost his marker and planted a perfect 40-metre pass over the Atletico defence – and on to the head of the striker who directed home past a bemused Burgos.
Atletico remained unbowed and teenage striker Fernando Torres posed plenty of problems for the Real defence as he battled away up front but, although they had several chances to narrow Real's lead, they lacked the finishing touch.
Real eased up after the break and the game gradually petered out as Atletico grew frustrated at their inability to mount a fightback.
Malaga striker Salva was the star of the show in Malaga's 5-1 destruction of Barcelona.
The former Valencia player finished off two slick counter-attacks to score twice in the first 15 minutes and helped himself to a third midway through the second with a delicate chipped finish.
He left the pitch to a standing ovation five minutes later, but his replacement Diego Alonso then compounded Barcelona's misery by scoring with his first touch to put Malaga 4-0 up.
Barcelona pulled one back when defender Fernando Sanz put through his own net on 80 minutes, but Malaga restored their four-goal cushion when Manuel Canabal cracked in three minutes from time.
The Catalans have now taken just one point from their last three games, a miserable run that has coincided with the injury to their Brazilian playmaker Ronaldinho. – Reuters