Resurgent Ramos sinks Malaga as Real increase lead at top

BARCELONA: Sergio Ramos made amends for his untimely own goal last week at Sevilla by scoring twice as Real Madrid bounced back from two successive defeats by beating Malaga 2-1 on Saturday to go four points clear at the top of La Liga.

The Real Madrid captain headed his side in front in the 35th minute by powering Toni Kroos's outswinging corner beyond Carlos Kameni and struck again in the 43rd by sliding in a free kick from his German team mate from close range to net his third goal in four games.

It was the perfect response from the Spain international six days after putting through his own net against Sevilla and inadvertently helping his former side win 2-1 to halt Zinedine Zidane's side's remarkable 40-game unbeaten run.

Ramos has now scored six league goals this term, bettering his previous record of five in a season with still half the campaign to go.

Malaga had proved difficult opponents and a slip by Raphael Varane allowed Venezuela international Juanpi to pull a goal back in the 63rd minute. It took a good save from Keylor Navas to prevent Chory Castro from levelling moments later.

Real lead the standings on 43 points, four clear of Sevilla and five ahead of champions Barcelona, having played 18 games. Barca visit Eibar on Sunday while Sevilla travel to Osasuna.

Real have a game in hand on their two closest rivals.

"The most important thing is that we won the game and made a good start. We had chances but these days we need four opportunities to score one goal. It was difficult because our opponents pushed us hard. We're tired, but happy," Real coach Zidane told reporters.

Uruguayan Castro had hit the post for the visiting side and forced another impressive save from Navas in an action-packed first half in which Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema squandered clear chances for Real and their Brazil left back Marcelo limped off with a suspected hamstring injury.


Luka Modric was also taken off in the second half, potentially leaving Zidane with as many as six absentees for Wednesday's King's Cup quarter-final second leg at Celta Vigo, when his side need to overturn a 2-1 deficit to progress.

"Luka had discomfort, Marcelo's problem is more serious. I'm quite worried by the injuries, it's put me in a bad mood, because we have a very important game on Wednesday," added Zidane.

Ronaldo's frustration grew after the break as he struck the post and was twice denied by Kameni, who almost committed an embarrassing error when he allowed a back pass to trickle through his legs but managed to scramble it away before it crossed the line.

Valencia continued their mini-revival under caretaker coach Salvador Gonzalo "Voro" by winning 2-0 at sixth-placed Villarreal in a local derby to move seven points clear of the relegation zone.

Carlos Soler, 20, scored his first goal for the club by turning in a pass from former Manchester United winger Nani in the 35th minute and striker Santi Mina robbed goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo to tap in the second in the 42nd.

Voro is the third man to take charge of Valencia this season following the sacking of Pako Ayesteran and the resignation of former Italy manager Cesare Prandelli and he has more wins than his predecessors this season, the derby victory following last week's 2-1 victory over Espanyol.

Voro also won two games as caretaker coach following the sacking of Ayesteran and will remain in the post until the end of the campaign.Valencia are provisionally 15th in the standings.

Espanyol beat struggling Granada 3-1 to climb to 10th place, while Leganes, who occupy the final spot above the relegation zone, twice came from behind to draw 2-2 at Alaves.