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Cristiano Ronaldo double lifts Real Madrid and keeps pressure on La Liga leaders Barcelona

Ronaldo struck twice as Real Madrid overcame a stiff test from Athletic Bilbao to move within a point of Barcelona at the top of La Liga with a 4-2 win on Saturday.
Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo, second from left, runs with the ball during their La Liga match against Athletic Club Bilbao at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on February 13, 2016. / AFP / GERARD JULIEN
Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo, second from left, runs with the ball during their La Liga match against Athletic Club Bilbao at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on February 13, 2016. / AFP / GERARD JULIEN

Madrid // Cristiano Ronaldo struck twice as Real Madrid overcame a stiff test from Athletic Bilbao to move within a point of Barcelona at the top of Primera Liga with a 4-2 win on Saturday.

Ronaldo’s early opener was cancelled out by Javi Eraso before a two-goal burst just before half-time from James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos put Madrid in control.

Real were reduced to 10 men late on as Raphael Varane saw a red card, but Ronaldo made sure of the points before Gorka Elustondo grabbed a consolation in stoppage time.

Barca have two games in hand on Madrid and face Celta Vigo in the first of those on Sunday.

Read more: Barcelona coach Luis Enrique loses his voice defending Neymar and his future with club

Ronaldo had been much criticised for his poor performance as Madrid struggled past Granada last weekend, but was sharp from the off back on home soil as he turned inside from Karim Benzema’s pass and smashed home his 31st goal of the season.

However, Athletic reacted well to going behind in a hugely entertaining first-half with chances flowing at either end.

The visitors were level on 10 minutes when Varane’s errant backpass was only parried by Keylor Navas into the path of Eraso to slot home.

Navas then had to produce a brilliant save to parry Aritz Aduriz’s powerful downward header.

At the other end, Gorka Iraizoz also made a great save to deny Danilo.

And Aduriz came close again on the half hour when his deflected shot came back off the crossbar.

However, the Basques were made to pay for their profligacy as Madrid showed their firepower with two goals in eight minutes before half-time.

Rodriguez regained the lead with a trademark drive into the bottom corner from outside the box for just his fifth goal of the season.

Kroos then put the game beyond Athletic as he received Ronaldo’s pass just inside the area and saw his shot flick off Aymeric Laporte on its way past Iraizoz.

Ronaldo came close to extending the lead when he struck the post from range just after the break.

Navas was also called on to make another fine save to smother Aduriz’s effort on the edge of the area after a rare wayward pass from Kroos.

Madrid had to see out the final seven minutes with 10 men as Varane saw a second yellow card for leading with his elbow in an aerial clash with Aduriz.

Yet, even with a man less, Ronaldo got his second of the afternoon to move ahead of Luis Suarez as La Liga’s top goalscorer by controlling Lucas Vazquez’s cross before firing home from close range.

Athletic did eventually get the second goal their performance deserved in stoppage time when Elustondo rounded off the scoring from Oscar de Marcos’s cross.

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Published: February 13, 2016 04:00 AM

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