RON­ALDO, NEY­MAR ON FIRE

Real and Barcelona win to set up fi­nal day show­down

New Straits Times - - Sport - MADRID

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 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 to­mor­row’s resched­uled game at Celta, the lat­est demon­stra­tion of his con­fi­dence in a tal­ent­packed squad which has been a key fac­tor in his side’s march to­wards the ti­tle.

“This team have 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.”

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 warmup, 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.

REUTERS PIC

Real Madrid’s Al­varo Mo­rata (front) vies for the ball with Sevilla’s Ma­tias Kranevit­ter at the San­ti­ago Bern­abeu on Sun­day.

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