Ronaldo buys Real breathing space as Barça draw

Atletico Madrid 0 Real Madrid 3

If Real's aim was to put pressure on the referee it worked to perfection as he awarded them a penalty and sent off Atletico defender Antonio Lopez after just seven minutes of the city derby at the Calderon.

The penalty was clear, Lopez clipping Raul's foot as he darted into the area after exchanging a sharp one-two with Ronaldo, the sending-off much less so. But Atletico's complaints failed to sway the referee and Ronaldo slotted the spot kick into the corner.

For Atletico the match against their city rivals was over almost as soon as it had started. Real were surprisingly slow to cotton on to the fact, however, and did not take full advantage until the second half when an increasingly tired-looking Zinedine Zidane was replaced by Guti.

Within six minutes of stepping on to the pitch, the Spaniard had set up the decisive goal for Ronaldo, spotting the Brazilian's run as he looked up from his advanced central midfield position and dropping an inch-perfect pass into his path.

Ronaldo motored past the Atletico defence, controlled the ball with his toe and squeezed a low shot beyond the outstretched goalkeeper Leo Franco and inside the post. It was the 29-year-old's 10th goal in seven games for Real against Atletico and ensured los blancos of bragging rights in the Spanish capital for a sixth successive year.

Ronaldo was only deprived of a hat-trick when Atletico centre-back Luis Perea beat him to the ball and then turned into his own net as he tried to stop him connecting with a neat pass from Robinho two minutes into injury time. The bad news for the three-times World Player of the Year was that he twisted his ankle in the incident and is now doubtful for Wednesday's Champions' League game against Rosenborg.

David Beckham turned in another hard-working, committed performance, although the England captain, who had been ordered to return to training by Real after his sending-off against Austria rather than being allowed to support his team-mates against Poland, was less influential than in recent games.

Flitting between the right and left wings and helping out in the middle when Real were on the defensive, he kept the Atletico back four on their toes with his raking cross-field passes and he was the one that set Robinho free in the build-up to the third goal.

His fellow countryman Jonathan Woodgate, however, had to settle for a place on the bench, the coach Wanderley Luxemburgo preferring not to risk playing the centre-back in a match with as much at stake as the city derby given the calamitous start to his Real Madrid career.

The former Newcastle United player should get a chance to reprieve himself against Rosenborg on Wednesday, however, as €27m (£18m) signing Sergio Ramos is suspended for the Champions' League match after his sending-off against Olympiakos.

With Barcelona held to a 3-3 draw by Deportivo La Coruña in an entertaining match at the Riazor, Real now enjoy a five-point cushion over their arch rivals, nothing decisive at this stage in the season, but enough to calm the nerves at the Bernabeu after their shaky start in la liga.

Atletico Madrid: Franco; Velasco, Ibanez, Perea, Lopez; Rodriguez (Valera, 65), Zainos, Luccin, Petrov; Kezman (Gabi, 65), Torres. Substitutes not used: Cuellar (gk), Molinero, Colsa, Ibagaza, Braulio.

Real Madrid: Casillas; Salgado (Diogo, 41), Helguera, Ramos, Roberto Carlos; Beckham, Garcia, Zidane (Guti, 55), Baptista (Robinho, 69); Raul, Ronaldo. Substitutes not used: Lopez (gk), Bravo, Woodgate, Gravesen.

Referee: B Gonzalez Vazquez.

Comments