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13th-Apr-2015

Ronaldo on target for Real, Atletico held

By AFP, Madrid

Cristiano Ronaldo took his tally for the season to 49 as Real Madrid cut the gap on La Liga leaders Barcelona to just a point with a comfortable 3-0 win over Eibar. Ronaldo opened the scoring with his first free-kick goal for nearly a year before Javier Hernandez crowned a rare start with the second before half-time.
Madrid eased up after the break ahead of their Champions League quarter-final against Atletico Madrid in midweek, but there was still time for Jese Rodriguez to fire home a third eight minutes from time. Atletico warmed up for that tie with a 2-2 draw at Malaga as Antoine Griezmann's double was cancelled out by a Fernando Torres own goal and Samuel Garcia.
A point all but ends Atletico's title hopes, but moves them four points clear of Valencia in the battle for the third Champions League place.
Barcelona, meanwhile, face a stiff test if they are to regain their four-point lead at the top as they travel to Sevilla later on Saturday.
"Those that came into the team did well. Hernandez and Jese scored and we made a big effort to ensure everything went well today," said Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti.
The Italian had handed outings to Hernandez, Jese, Asier Illarramendi and Keylor Navas, making six changes from Wednesday's 2-0 win over Rayo Vallecano. James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos were out suspended, whilst Gareth Bale missed the game through injury.
The hosts took their time to get going, but were only denied the opener in incredible fashion on 19 minutes as Sergio Ramos' initial shot came off the bar, Isco's follow-up effort then came off both posts and Hernandez was flagged offside as he fired in the rebound.
Madrid only had to wait four more minutes to make the breakthrough as Ronaldo's swerving free-kick flummoxed Xabi Irureta to end a run of 56 attempts at goal from free-kicks without scoring for the World Player of the Year.
The Portugal captain should have had a second moments later as he sliced Hernandez's fine low cross wide at the end of a lightning quick counter-attack from the European champions.
Hernandez then got the goal his performance deserved as the Manchester United loanee headed Alvaro Arbeloa's cross into the far corner.
Ancelotti then took the opportunity to replace Ramos, Luka Modric and Marcelo with one eye on Real's return to Champions League action away to Atletico on Tuesday.
And Jese rounded off the scoring on his first start of the season with a purposeful run into the area before firing low across Irureta into the far corner.
Atletico were lucky to escape with a point that keeps their quest for a return to the Champions League next season on track. Griezmann tapped into an empty net after Carlos Kameni dropped Jesus Gamez's long throw-in, but Atletico returned the favour when Torres turned Recio's corner into his own net at the near post.
Malaga then deservedly went in front 20 minutes from time when Samuel latched onto Nordin Amrabat's through ball and dinked a lovely finish over the onrushing Jan Oblak.
However, the hosts were denied all three points as Griezmann slammed home his second of the afternoon from Raul Jimenez's knockdown seven minutes later.