Late Ronaldo brace sends Real four clear

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Posted Sunday, October 31, 2010 by YAHOO Sport

MADRID (AFP) - Cristiano Ronaldo hit double figures for the season with a late brace as Real Madrid came from behind to win 3-1 at promoted Hercules and stretch their lead at the top of the Spanish first division to four points.

Ronaldo scored a quadruple in his last league outing and scored twice on 82 and 86 minutes to make it 10 goals in his last four league matches and 11 for the season.

Unbeaten Real now sit four points above Barcelona and Villarreal, who both have a game in hand, and go into Wednesday's Champions League match at AC Milan full of confidence.
Champions Barcelona host Sevilla at Camp Nou in Saturday's late match hoping to close to within a point of Madrid while second-placed Villarreal, four points behind Real, travel to Sporting Gijon on Sunday.

Real were full of confidence after scoring 16 goals in their last three league matches and it was no surprise to see Jose Mourinho field his strongest line-up.

Hercules had already beaten Barcelona and Sevilla this season and took a shock third minute lead against mighty Real.

David Cortes got down the byline and crossed for veteran French striker David Trezeguet, back from suspension, who guided a header past Iker Casillas.

The 33-year-old Trezeguet, who scored the golden goal in France's Euro 2000 final win over Italy, joined Hercules after 10 years with Juventus and has had an immediate impact scoring four goals in his last four league games.

Remarkably, it was the first time Real had gone behind this season under Mourinho but the league leaders did not take long in fashioning a response.

Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain were both denied by goalkeeper Juan Calatayud on 23 minutes but the lively Trezeguet then forced a save from Casillas as Hercules resisted the temptation to sit on their lead.

Seven minutes after the break Madrid were level with Ronaldo's dipping shot spilled by Calatayud and di Maria pounced on the error to side-foot home.

Real had to wait until the 82nd minute to go ahead with Ronaldo tapping in after French substitute Karim Benzema had his shot saved.

Benzema was again the provider four minutes later with his cut-back slotted in neatly by Ronaldo, who could have had a ten-minute hat-trick but fired over in the closing stages.

Earlier, title hopefuls Valencia dropped two more points in a disappointing 1-1 home draw against 10-man Real Zaragoza with a performance that inspired little confidence ahead of a vital Champions League clash with Rangers.

Valencia have fallen to successive defeats to Barcelona and Real Mallorca and this draw against winless Zaragoza meant one point from the last six at home and leaves them fourth six points behind Real.

"We didn?t think we could surrender five points in two home matches, however, we don't have to look for excuses but solutions," said Valencia coach Unai Emery.

Zaragoza's Italian defender Maurizio Lanzaro put his side into a shock two minute lead but undid the good work on 42 minutes when a mix-up with goalkeeper Antonio Doblas saw him put through his own net for Valencia's equaliser.

Visitors Zaragoza were reduced to ten men on 67 minutes when midfielder Ander Herrera, only on as a second half substitute, was given a straight red card for a challenge on Juan Mata.

Emery must now pysche his team up for Tuesday's Champions League group match at home to Rangers with one point separating the two teams in Group C.


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