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Life begins at 40 goals as Ronaldo backheel keeps Real on track for title


Cristiano Ronaldo continued to dazzle fans by scoring a stunning winner in Real Madrid's 1-0 victory at Rayo Vallecano yesterday.

Ronaldo struck eight minutes after the interval for the La Liga leaders. Mesut Ozil whipped in a corner from the left and the Portuguese controlled the ball and, with his back to goal, powerfully backheeled it past four defenders and into the net. It was Ronaldo's 40 goal of the campaign.

Barcelona required a superb late winner from Lionel Messi to stay 10 points behind Real after beating Atletico Madrid 2-1 last night. Dani Alves gave Barça the lead with a tap-in on the stroke of half-time but Radamel Falcao equalised soon after the restart and the visitors needed Messi's dipping and swerving free-kick from the left of the penalty area with nine minutes to go to avoid another costly away draw.

Elsewhere in Spain, Nilmar's second-half equaliser gave relegation-threatened Villarreal a vital 2-2 draw with Athletic Bilbao at El Madrigal.


Marcos Senna's superb free-kick put the hosts in front before Bilbao responded through Fernando Llorente, who headed home at the the far post. The visitors then took the lead on the counter-attack as Markel Susaeta slotted a shot past Diego Lopez.


Villarreal levelled, though, with 23 minutes remaining. The Bilbao goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz spilled Alejandro Martinuccio's effort and team-mate Nilmar was stationed nearby to sidefoot home his third goal of the season. Villarreal now sit just two points above the relegation zone.


Franck Ribéry, meanwhile, struck either side of the interval in Bayern Munich's 2-0 home victory in the Bundesliga over Schalke yesterday. Jupp Heynckes' side suffered a Champions League defeat to Basle last week but bounced back with a confident display at the Allianz-Arena to keep up the pressure on leaders Borussia Dortmund.

Ribéry bypassed Schalke'son-rushing goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand with an exquisite touch before slotting into an empty net nine minutes before the interval, then added a second in the 55th minute.

Dortmund won 3-1 at home to Hannover to stay four points ahead of Bayern, two goals from Robert Lewan-dowski helping them to a seventh straight victory in the Bundesliga.

In Italy, Udinese close the gap on the Serie A top two of Milan and Juventus with a 3-1 win at Bologna, Antonio Di Natale setting them on their way with a first-half penalty. Internazionale's woes continued as they slumped to a 1-0 defeat at Napoli, Ezequiel Lavezzi getting the winner.