x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Barcelona silenced by a display of brilliance from Real's Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo grabs winner to all but tie up Primera Liga title for Real.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored the winner at Camp Nou.
Cristiano Ronaldo scored the winner at Camp Nou.

Barcelona // Real Madrid have one hand on a first Primera Liga trophy in four years after Cristiano Ronaldo scored a brilliant winner in a 2-1 victory at Barcelona last night that stretched their lead over their bitter rivals to seven points with four games left.

On a rain-swept night at Camp Nou, when Real also set a new record of 109 goals scored in a league season, Sami Khedira was sharpest to react when Barca goalkeeper Victor Valdes dropped the ball at a corner and the Germany midfielder bundled it over the line for a 17th-minute lead.

Alexis Sanchez finally scrambled the ball in for the equaliser with 20 minutes left but the home fans were silenced three minutes later when Mesut Ozil's superb pass released Ronaldo on the right and he took the ball wide before smashing it home.

Barca had started nervously and lacked their usual fluidity and once Real were ahead they defended solidly and rarely looked like conceding as Barca stroked the ball around on the slick surface without real penetration.

Real, humiliated 5-1 on this ground last season, strangled their normally free-passing hosts.

Lionel Messi, the World Player of the Year, was barely allowed a kick and his playmaking teammates - Xavi and Andres Iniesta - were largely stifled by a Real side fully aware of the rewards on offer.

Jose Mourinho, the Real coach, shaved his head at the start of the week to signal he was ready to "go to war", but the game never really ignited to such levels.

With 17 minutes on the clock, Ozil's corner found Pepe at the back post and his header was parried by Valdes but, as Carles Puyol struggled to get his legs free to clear, Khedira wrapped his foot around the loose ball to score from two yards.

Messi's slide-rule pass put Xavi clear on Iker Casillas' goal 10 minutes later, but he could only hit wide.

Real returned for the second half with the intention of slowing the game down, with a number of players including Pepe and Fabio Coentrao both requiring treatment for what appeared to be innocuous injuries.

Their tactics were frustrating Barcelona, though, who could barely get close to Casillas' goal and, when they did, Tello twice hit wildly over - the second occasion a horrendous spoon that cleared the bar.

But Tello was persistent, and in the 70th minute, he helped Barcelona get level.

The goal had an element of pinball about it, with Casillas denying Tello and Sanchez in quick succession before the Chilean eventually bundled in from close range.

But, Real responded with class. Ozil's ball set Ronaldo racing down the right and past Mascherano, although his 54th goal of the season was made easier by Valdes' decision to race off his line to clinch victory.

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