LA LIGA

Cristiano’s century, Apoño’s week

Ronaldo is fastest man to 100 Liga goals, tying scorer race with Messi Zaragoza defeats Atlético with late penalty to open up relegation battle

Real Zaragoza's Apoño (center) celebrating one of his two goals against Valencia.
Real Zaragoza's Apoño (center) celebrating one of his two goals against Valencia. JUAN CARLOS CARDENAS (EFE)

There was no change in the Liga title race at the top of table, with Real Madrid and Barcelona both winning comfortably. But the team which started the weekend rock bottom, Real Zaragoza, stunned a visiting Atlético Madrid with a final-second winner to blow the relegation fight wide open with just nine more matchdays to go.

For Real, Cristiano Ronaldo calmed any championship jitters in the Bernabéu by scoring the second goal against a defensive Real Sociedad just after the half-hour mark on Saturday night. In taking his third chance of the night, the tireless pursuer of goals took his Liga tally to 100 in what is just his third season after moving to Real Madrid from Manchester United. Ronaldo became the fastest player to reach the landmark — the Portuguese forward has turned out for Real 92 times in league matches, whereas the legendary Ferenc Puskás needed 105 to bring up his century.

But Ronaldo hadn't finished. After Karim Benzema had scored Real’s third and fourth on the night, the 27-year-old slid in for a second from an excellent cross by Gonzalo Higuaín, the scorer of Madrid’s opener on a night that ended 5-1 and settled nerves after two disappointing ties had seen the lead over Barcelona cut to six points from 10.

Apoño’s three goals have given Zaragoza its first back-to-back wins

Earlier on Saturday, Barcelona had done its best to put pressure on the leader by winning 0-2 at Mallorca, despite playing for much of the second half with 10 men after midfielder Thiago was shown a second yellow card. Even in a situation of parity, Mallorca was proving a hard nut to crack, until on 25 minutes, Barça’s own record man scored his 35th of the league season — the same as Cristiano Ronaldo. But in establishing a lead and bettering the Brazilian Ronaldo’s club mark of 34 in a Liga season, Leo Messi was the beneficiary of the kind of luck he does not normally need, the Argentinean’s free kick bouncing in the penalty area and fooling all of those around it, apparently including teammate Alexis Sánchez, whose attempt to head it was adjudged to have failed by a hair’s breadth.

After Thiago’s unfortunate sending off after a hand ball that replays showed did not exist, Gerard Piqué made the three points safe by latching on to a rebound from a Messi shot.

Zaragoza does not have a Messi or a Ronaldo of any description, but midseason signing from Málaga Antonio Galdeano, better known as Apoño, is proving to be a godsend. The midfielder’s three goals in the past week — two against Valencia and the firmly struck penalty at the very end of injury time against Atlético on Sunday — have given Zaragoza its first back-to-back wins of a generally dismal season. Valencia continued its decline, losing 3-1 at Getafe.

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