Cristiano Ronaldo scored a wonderful, back-heeled goal, while Lionel Messi hit the target with a deadly accurate free-kick as Real Madrid and Barcelona both emerged victorious from testing La Liga trips on Sunday.
Ronaldo gave Real a 1-0 win over neighbors Rayo Vallecano de Madrid, while Messi scored his team’s second goal in a 2-1 win at Atletico Madrid as Spain’s two box office attractions took their league goals tally to 29 and 28 respectively.
The results also kept Real 10 points in front of the defending champions.
At Vallecano, the second half was eight minutes old when the hosts’ defense failed to clear a corner at the first attempt. Portuguese superstar Ronaldo, facing away from the goal, back-heeled the ball so powerfully from 15m out that it evaded four Rayo defenders on its way into the left-hand corner of the net.
“A back-heel is always different. It was a great goal, but I’m not sure if it was the best of my career — I have to see it again on TV,” Ronaldo said. “The most important thing is the victory and the points.”
The game was competitive throughout and the main talking point of a goalless first period was whether or not Real’s Sergio Ramos had intentionally used an elbow to stop Diego Costa in the penalty area after already receiving a yellow card.
Ronaldo had shot dangerously on 24 minutes across the Rayo goal from the left-hand side of the penalty area and a minute later he went close again with a right-footed shot that narrowly missed the target.
Rayo were close to taking a first-half lead when Francisco Medina burst into the area and cracked a shot that hit the underside of the crossbar on 38 minutes.
Rayo’s best chance to level fell to Miguel Perez “Michu,” who blazed the ball over the bar after a mistake by Ramos put him clear on goal. Michu was unjustly sent off with a minute remaining for a challenge on Sami Khedira in which he did not appear to make contact.
After Barcelona’s victory, coach Pep Guardiola once again refused to discuss his future at the Catalan club.
“I’ve had enough of that topic. When there is news you will all know, it’s getting tiring talking about it,” Guardiola told reporters.
On the 10-point gap behind Madrid, he said: “When you are 10 points behind, you are not thinking about winning them all back, but simply to play well in what was a complicated game for us and to get the three points. We have to keep winning and see if we have the opportunity to get back into the title race.”
Barcelona dominated the first half at Atletico and the breakthrough came on 35 minutes when Dani Alves finished off a swift attacking move started by Messi, who presented Cesc Fabregas with the chance to gift the Brazilian the opener.
However, it was a different Atletico that emerged for the second period and they were soon level when Colombian striker Radamel Falcao met a corner to grab his 15th league goal of the season on 48 minutes.
The game seemed to be heading for a draw until Gabi Fernandez tripped Pedro Rodriguez on the edge of the Atletico area. As Atletico goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was lining up his defensive wall, Messi surprised everyone with a curling left-foot shot into the far corner.
There was time for Juanfran to have a shot blocked from close range by Victor Valdes, before the Barca goalkeeper then had to stop a Gabi Fernandez pile-driver in stoppage-time.