Ronaldo celebrates Ballon d’Or with 2 goals in Madrid rout
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — 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.
RESERVE PLAYERS ROLL
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.”
BACK TO WINNING
Valencia bounced back from its first loss of the season, to Getafe, by fending off a Celta side that was threatening to take points from its visit to Mestalla Stadium.
Valencia started strong; striker Simone Zaza jumped high at the near post to head in Parejo’s corner kick. Zaza’s 10th league goal made him the second leading scorer behind Messi on 13.
Iago Aspas netted his ninth goal to pull Celta level just after halftime, and Celta was in control until Pablo Hernandez fouled Nacho Gil in the area.
Parejo’s penalty slipped under goalie Ruben Blanco, who didn’t get enough hand on the ball.
“I don’t go crazy over wins or losses, I am interested in our dynamic and my team’s dynamic right now is extraordinary,” Valencia coach Marcelino Garcia Toral said.
TOUGH TO BEAT
Promoted club Getafe once again proved hard to beat as it climbed into seventh place after drawing with Eibar 0-0.
Getafe has lost only once in its last seven league matches.
Deportivo edged Leganes 1-0 at home for its first victory in five rounds, letting it move three points above the relegation zone.