Efficient Real take temporary lead
Real Madrid continued their post-Camp Nou recovery with a deserved 3-1 victory over rock-bottom Real Zaragoza at La Romareda this evening.
Mesut Ozil's early strike and a brilliant Cristiano Ronaldo free-kick put Real 2-0 up at half-time and Angel Di Maria lobbed home a third goal just after the break, making Gabi's 54th-minute penalty for Zaragoza nothing more than a consolation. The triumph means Real have now rattled up three successive victories since losing 5-0 to Barcelona a fortnight ago, beating Valencia, Auxerre and now Zaragoza.
Real, for whom Jose Mourinho was back on the bench after missing the 4-0 UEFA Champions League win over Auxerre due to a touchline ban, survived an early let-off when Angel Lafita slid a low shot just wide of Iker Casillas' far post. However, the visitors put themselves in charge in the 15th minute when Ozil stroked in their first.
A superb pass from Marcelo picked out Ozil on the right and the German international progressed into the area before sliding a shot through Leo Franco's legs. Karim Benzema, who netted a hat-trick against Auxerre, almost made it 2-0 soon after but he found himself crowded out by the Zaragoza defence, but there was nothing the hosts could do as Ronaldo did double Real's advantage in the 44th minute.
Having been awarded a free-kick 25 yards out in the centre of the pitch, Ronaldo stepped up and thumped an unstoppable shot into Leo Franco's top right-hand corner with the former Atletico Madrid goalkeeper rooted to the spot. That was Ronaldo's 17th league goal of the season, leaving him two ahead of Lionel Messi at the top of the Primera Division scoring charts - although Messi will get the chance to reduce that gap when Barcelona play Real Sociedad later this evening.
Ronaldo's strike was the perfect way for Real to end the first half, and they enjoyed a similarly successful start to the second period as well with Di Maria putting them 3-0 up in the 47th minute. The livewire Argentinian, who has been a fine asset since his summer move from Benfica, raced onto Xabi Alonso's through-ball and lobbed his shot over the outcoming Leo Franco and into the net.
Zaragoza gave themselves a glimmer of hope when they pulled a goal back from the spot, Gabi sending Casillas the wrong way after Ricardo Carvalho had brought down Nicolas Bertolo, but they rarely threatened a second goal in the remainder of the match.
Indeed, it was only Real who looked like adding to the scoreline and Benzema was denied by Leo Franco following a rapid breakaway that left three visiting forwards against one Zaragoza defender. Lassana Diarra then came close to adding a fourth in the 80th minute but, after powering his way to the edge of the area and playing a good one-two with Di Maria, he saw his shot saved at the second attempt by Leo Franco.