Cristiano Ronaldo and Diego Costa drive Real and Atletico to victory
By Joseph Wilson ,AP
March 17, 2014, 12:04 am TWN
BARCELONA, Spain -- Cristiano Ronaldo scored his Spanish league-leading 25th goal to give Real Madrid a lackluster 1-0 win at Malaga on Saturday, when the pacesetters extended their unbeaten run to 30 consecutive matches in all competitions.
Diego Costa made sure Atletico Madrid stayed within three points of its crosstown rivals by scoring his 22nd league goal of the season in a 1-0 win at home over Espanyol.
Ronaldo netted the winner in the 23rd minute, and a tired Madrid was fortunate Malaga failed to muster a comeback after pushing the visitors into their area for the final 10 minutes.
Third-place Barcelona will enter Sunday's match against Osasuna seven points behind Madrid with the two powerhouses set to clash in the Spanish capital next weekend.
Madrid's win was tarnished by the loss of Karim Benzema to a right thigh injury after colliding with Ronaldo in the first half.
“We suffered, above all in the second half,” Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso said. “They pressed us and it was tough for us to move the ball. These are three important points. There are 10 games left and we have to play each one like it's the last.”
Elsewhere, Rayo Vallecano beat Almeria 3-1 to provisionally escape the relegation zone with a third consecutive victory, while Celta Vigo earned an entertaining 1-0 win at Levante.
The opening stage of the match at La Rosaleda Stadium saw a vibrant back-and-forth exchange before Ronaldo put Madrid ahead with a wonderful solo effort.
The Ballon d'Or winner looked to be hemmed in by two defenders on the edge of the area, but he took three touches to his right and lashed a bouncing strike beyond goalkeeper Willy Caballero. Ronaldo's goal gave him 39 goals in 36 games in all competitions this campaign.
Ronaldo went close twice more shortly after, first being blocked by Caballero and then sending Gareth Bale's lobbed pass into the side netting before he ran into Benzema.
Benzema was treated on the sideline by team doctors before he asked to be substituted, ceding his spot to Angel Di Maria, in the 31st.