Real Madrid beat Sporting Gijon in a biblical storm at the Bernabeu and the goals went in two by two for Cristiano Ronaldo whose scoring double left him as La Liga’s top scorer.
Ronaldo is the first in to make it to 10 league goals this season and it was enough to see off Sporting who made a contest of it in the torrential rain and could even having taken a point had they not missed a second half penalty.
Madrid were playing in shirts made from recycled plastic recovered from the sea. The Adidas shirts with ‘for the oceans’ written inside the collars were faded white but there was nothing faded about Ronaldo who scored his 50th and 51st goals of the year in the first half – that’s the sixth year straight that he has managed the half century.
Without the injured Gareth Bale and with Isco left on the bench, Ronaldo and Madrid youth team graduates Nacho and Lucas Vazquez took the game to Sporting.
Vazquez won a penalty when he was tripped in the area by Sergio Alvarez and Ronaldo slid the penalty under Mariño’s dive making the most of the greasy surface.
Ronaldo grabbed his second when Nacho curled in the perfect cross from the left and he headed it into the far corner. Nacho is proving to be the man for all positions at the back, filling for the injured Fabio Coentrao and the rested Marcelo.
Real Madrid might have felt that was game over but Sporting had caused Pepe and Sergio Ramos problems and when Luka Modric gave the ball straight to the Moi Gomez he crossed and Carlos Carmona made it 2-1. Gomez also stepped on Pepe’s foot but after a nervous ten minutes of hobbling the centre-back seemed to recover.
Madrid have only won the league five times this century and not since 2012. In games like this you can tell it’s the priority this season. They had to dig in during the second half as the rain kept coming down but that is exactly what they did do.
Lucas Vazquez almost set up the third for Madrid with a whipped in cross from the right that Benzema headed straight at Mariño. Both Isco and Marco Asensio were now warming-up. Zidane was getting twitchy on the sidelines, not happy about the one-goal advantage.
When Zidane made the change it was Asensio who replaced James Rodriguez. The Colombian had done little to persuade his manage to pick him from the start more often. Marcelo also came on with the recently recovered from injury Ramos taken off as a precaution for the last 20 minutes.
Sporting brought on Victor Rodriguez and he threw himself down in the penalty area as soon as he felt Nacho’s hand on his shoulder. It was harsh or clever depending on your allegiances. Up stepped Duje Čop who got his foot under the ball and sent the penalty high and wide. He had a second chance moments later but from open play Keylor Navas saved.
The Bernabeu whistled sensing the home side were throwing the game away but Ronaldo calmed them and urged them to stay with the team. And he almost made it three but couldn’t pull away from the Sporting defenders and shot straight at Mariño holding the back of his thigh as he trudged back to the halfway line. The pace is maybe fading a little but the goalscoring instinct is till in tact and it had been enough to win Real the game… just.