MADRID (Reuters) – Real Madrid followed up Tuesday’s Champions League success at Manchester United with a victory in La Liga when Cristiano Ronaldo struck twice in a laboured 2-1 win at second-from-bottom Celta Vigo on Sunday.
Ronaldo netted the goal that sent Real through to the last eight of Europe’s elite club competition at the expense of his former club and his latest double took his league tally for the season to 26, 14 behind top scorer Lionel Messi of Barcelona.
The victory lifted champions Real above city rivals Atletico Madrid into second on 58 points, 13 behind leaders Barca, who won 2-0 at basement side Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday, with 11 games left.
Atletico, who have 57 points, host Real Sociedad in the late kickoff (2000 GMT).
Celta are fighting to avoid an immediate return to the second division after winning promotion last term and started brightly at their Balaidos stadium.
Ronaldo nodded against the crossbar in a goalless first half before the Portugal forward pounced on a loose ball and fired in from close range in the 61st minute.
Celta levelled two minutes later when an Iago Aspas strike deflected off Pepe and bounced past Diego Lopez into the net before Kaka won a 71st-minute penalty when he was felled by Lopez’s opposite number Javi Varas.
Ronaldo dispatched the spot kick for his 19th goal in all competitions since the turn of the year, three more than Messi.
Real rode their luck as the rain began to lash down in the closing stages and Celta substitute Park Chu-young nodded against the bar a minute from time.
Valencia missed a chance to climb above Malaga and Real Betis into fourth place when they were beaten 1-0 at Athletic Bilbao earlier on Sunday.
Eliminated from the Champions League at Paris St Germain on Wednesday, the defeat dents the cash-strapped club’s chances of securing a lucrative place in the competition for next season.
Bilbao forward Iker Muniain clipped home a loose ball in the 80th minute to put the home side ahead at a vibrant San Mames stadium. Valencia substitute Roberto Soldado had a chance to level minutes later but somehow scooped the ball over the bar with the goal at his mercy.
The defeat leaves Ernesto Valverde’s side in sixth on 42 points, one behind Betis and two adrift of Malaga, who occupy Spain’s fourth Champions League berth.
Bilbao, who have had a miserable season after reaching the final of the Europa League and the King’s Cup last term, are 14th on 32 points.
Levante, through to the last 16 of the Europa League, are also bidding for a return to continental competition next season but were held to a 0-0 draw at home to Getafe.
Valencia-based Levante are 10th on 36 points, three behind Madrid side Getafe.
- Ronaldo treble fires Real to 4-1 win at Ajax
- Ronaldo hat-trick fires Real into Cup quarters
- Benzema double fires Real six points clear
- Ronaldo double rescues 10-man Real
- Ronaldo fires Real top, Barca held by Sevilla