Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti hailed Cristiano Ronaldo’s impact despite failing to score for the first time in the Spanish La Liga this season as the European champions registered a club record 16th consecutive victory in all competitions with a 2-1 win at Malaga.
Ronaldo set up Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale either side of half-time to take his tally of assists to ten alongside 26 goals in just 20 appearances this season.
“I liked his performance a lot. He was fantastic and the key in the game,” said the Italian. “It is strange because we are so used to him scoring, but he provided two assists and a great part of the merit for this victory is owed to him.”
Madrid withstood a late surge from Malaga after Isco was shown a late red card on his return to La Rosaleda and Roque Santa Cruz headed home a consolation in stoppage time.
Victory takes Ancelotti’s men five points clear of Barcelona for 24 hours at least as the Catalans face a tough trip to Valencia on Sunday. And the former Chelsea boss was keen to heap the praise on his players for a stunning run over the past eight weeks that has seen them overtake the 15 consecutive wins achieved by Miguel Munoz’s side in 1960/61 and with Jose Mourinho in charge three seasons ago.
“I am very happy. It seems like a dream, but we are delighted and hope is continues. I will get the merit for this record, but in reality I have the luck to coach a fantastic team, with fantastic players at a fantastic club. I have profound admiration for these players that are playing very well. We need to keep going though because the season is very long.”
However, defender Sergio Ramos highlighted the important role played by Ancelotti in blending Madrid’s superstar packed squad into a balanced unit. And the Spanish international in particular hailed Ancelotti’s calm nature, in contrast to his predecessor Mourinho, with whom he and many other Madrid players clashed with towards the end of his tenure.
“It is a historic night. We have achieved an important record and it is a day to congratulate Ancelotti and all the squad. We are on the ideal track. He is the boss of this Real Madrid. There is a perfect calmness in the dressing room and that is fundamental for the team.”