Cristiano Ronaldo celebrated his fifth Ballon d’Or award by leading Real Madrid to victory on Saturday, while Valencia kept the pressure on Spanish league leader Barcelona.
Ronaldo presented his trophy for the best player in football to Real Madrid’s fans then scored twice as Sevilla was routed 5-0 at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.
Ronaldo received the honor on Thursday in Paris, his fifth trophy equaling Barcelona rival Lionel Messi.
After soaking up the ovation before kickoff from his fans, Ronaldo went on to have his best performance in the league this season. His brace earned him another loud round of applause when he was substituted late.
Second-place Valencia needed a late penalty converted by Dani Parejo to see off Celta Vigo 2-1 and pull to within two points of Barcelona before the pacesetter visits Villarreal on Sunday.
Madrid moved into third place, five points behind Barcelona. Sevilla entered the game in the Spanish capital tied on points with a Madrid side that was without first-choice defenders Sergio Ramos and Dani Carvajal and midfielder Casemiro, who were all suspended for one match, and injured center back Raphael Varane.
But with Ronaldo and company on song, Zinedine Zidane’s bunch decided the match with five goals before halftime.
Two of Madrid’s reserve players who got starts to patch up its defense, Nacho Fernandez and 19-year- old Achraf Hakimi, scored for the hosts.
“We can be pleased because it’s not easy to score five goals against Sevilla,” Zidane said. “I am happy for Cristiano and for the players who hadn’t played many minutes because they played well.”
Madrid will take a break from La Liga and travel to the United Arab Emirates to dispute the Club World Cup next week as the Champions League winner.
Sevilla’s nightmare started in the third minute when Simon Kjaer failed to clear a corner kick. Instead, the ball hit teammate Luis Muriel in the shoulder and bounced toward the goal, where Fernandez only had to direct it in.
For his first goal, Ronaldo received a silky smooth pass by Marco Asensio and shot home.
Then a handball by Jesus Navas to block Marcelo’s pass in the area sent Ronaldo to the penalty spot. Goalkeeper Sergio Rico anticipated the direction but Ronaldo’s powerful shot bounced off his gloves and body before going in.
The goals were only Ronaldo’s third and fourth through 11 league games. That low tally contrasts with his performances in the Champions League, where he became the first player to score in all six group matches.
The goals were also Ronaldo’s 26th and 27th in 18 career games against Sevilla.
After Rico saved strikes by Luka Modric and Ronaldo he could not deny Toni Kroos. Hakimi rounded off the demolition.
Sevilla defender Gabriel Mercado apologized to the team’s supporters for what he agreed was its worst outing of the season. “We ask our fans to forgive us,” Mercado said. “We need to be very self-critical to correct what went wrong.” AP