MADRID: Real Madrid sent a warning to Barcelona just two weeks ahead of El Clasico by storming back into form as Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice in a 5-0 thrashing of Sevilla on Saturday (Sunday in Manila).
Sevilla had started the afternoon on the same number of points as Madrid in joint fourth, but the sides looked worlds apart as Real scored all five goals before half-time to close to within five points of Barca at the top of the table.
Nacho got the hosts off to a perfect start before Ronaldo doubled his La Liga tally for the season with a cool finish and a penalty inside the half-hour mark.
Toni Kroos and Achraf Hakimi rounded off the rout as Real leapfrogged cross city rivals Atletico Madrid into third.
Valencia moved to within two points of Barca as Dani Parejo’s penalty 10 minutes from time earned a 2-1 win over Celta Vigo.
However, Barca can regain their eight-point advantage over Real and five-point lead at the top when they visit Villarreal on Sunday.
Real’s spirits were lifted even before kick-off as Ronaldo showed off his record-equaling fifth Ballon d’Or to an adoring Santiago Bernabeu.
There had been concern in Madrid ranks all week at the European champions’ lack of defensive options with Sergio Ramos, Dani Carvajal and Casemiro all suspended and Raphael Varane injured.
However, it was Sevilla who looked like the side without a defense as they gifted the hosts the opener after just three minutes.
“Scoring five goals against Sevilla isn’t easy so we can be delighted,” said Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane.
“I am happy for Cristiano to get his goals and the fact some players who haven’t had so many minutes did so well.”
A harmless corner to the back post saw Sevilla duo Simon Kjaer and Luis Muriel get in each other’s way and present Nacho with a gift to fire home from point-blank range.
“We ask for forgiveness because we didn’t expect to lose by so many goals,” admitted Sevilla defender Gabriel Mercado.
“Once again in the first goal we concede from a set-piece and every shot they had went in.”