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Millennium Post

Ronaldo seals ‘real’ thriller

Goalkeeper Iker Casillas came off the bench after just five minutes for 10-man Real Madrid who needed a second half double from Cristiano Ronaldo to beat Real Sociedad 4-3 on Sunday.

The Madrid captain was left out for the second consecutive game but was called upon in the opening minutes following a penalty conceded by his replacement Adan Garrido who was red carded.

Xabi Prieto, who was to grab a hat-trick, scored from the spot-kick to equalise after Karim Benzema had put Madrid ahead after just two minutes with Sami Khedira then restoring the lead for Jose Mourinho’s side after 35 minutes.

Prieto struck again before half-time before Ronaldo came to the rescue with a brace after the restart.

Prieto hit his third with 14 minutes to go but Sociedad finished with 10 men also as Daniel Estrada was given a second yellow card.

Madrid are still 13 points behind Barcelona who play Espanyol later in a local derby and where they welcome back coach Tito Vilanova after cancer surgery.

Madrid faced an injury crisis at the back with Pepe, Fabio Coentrao, Marcelo and Raul Albiol all injured and Sergio Ramos suspended but they did have striker Gonzalo Higuain back after two months out and he began on the bench.

They got the perfect start with Khedira finding Benzema in space in the centre of the penalty area and he found the corner with a clinical finish.

But if the crowd were expecting to then see a comfortable victory after such an inconsistent season they were mistaken as only three minutes later Adan conceded the penalty for the visitors to draw level.


BARCA SHIP FOUR PAST ESPANYOL

Barcelona kicked off 2013 La Liga football season with a victory, continuing their unbeaten track of 2012.

Barca’s 4-0 win over local rivals Espanyol means that Tito Vilanova’s side continues to set records and after 18 games they have amassed an incredible 52 points from a possible 54.

The win on Sunday was also a perfect present for the return of Vilanova to the Barca dugout less than three weeks after he underwent a cancer operation Dec 20.

If his side had wanted to dedicate a win to Vilanova, who begins radiotherapy Monday, they couldn’t have done any better in a whirlwind first 45 minutes in which Espanyol hardly got out of their own half. Barca will take their unbeaten record to Malaga next week.


JOSE MOURINHO SHRUGS OFF JEERS


Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho brushed off the boos of an angry Bernabeu crowd on Sunday as fans turned on the Portuguese coach for benching goalkeeper Iker Casillas. Fans are unhappy at his approach and there are rumours of a rift in the dressing room with heavyweights like Casillas and Sergio Ramos. ‘Perfect. Let them whistle me before the match and then support the team as they are doing. I think the whistles are for leaving Casillas out and also because we are not achieving our aims in the championship,’ said a defiant Mourinho.
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