Cristiano Ronaldo reaches 40 league goals this season, tying his record from last season with six matches left to play. More importantly, his hat trick led Real Madrid to an impressive 4-1 win in the derby over Atletico, keeping a four point distance from Barcelona with the Clasico edging closer with less than two weeks away.
The pressure showed on Real Madrid players, on all of them. Jose Mourinho was planning on going all out and trying to settle this game early. He has one super player which was enough against an Atletico Madrid playing for pride, playing better against a superior team for long portions of the match.
But again, there’s not much you can do against players like Ronaldo, especially when you’re a limited team like Atletico, especially defensively with a mistake-prone goalkeeper in the young Thibaut Courtois. Diego Simeone brought change, enthusiasm and an aggressive spirit with him to his old club, but that was only enough to find an equalizing goal.
Ramadel Falcao has one of the best aerial games in Europe, and some bad coverage left him wide open to score a goal that gave plenty of hope to the 54,000 fans in the Vicente Calderon. Cristiano Ronaldo, with another brilliant strike, with some help from the Belgian keeper, killed those hopes 13 minutes later.
The penalty (completing the hat trick) and the late Callejon goal made no difference. Despite all that has happened last week, despite Jose Mourinho actin ridiculously with not showing up once again, ‘punishing’ the media and the referees for not aiding him in his quest to slay the Barcelona dragon, despite playing cautious football, they keep their fate and title hopes in their own hands.
Now the Clasico doesn’t look so dangerous. Real don’t have to show up at the daunting Camp Nou knowing they can’t afford to lose. There’s still Gijon this weekend, there’s still Bayern to deal with four days earlier, but Barcelona have a tougher match at Valencia against the very problematic Levante, with a bigger chance of dropping points. Guardiola was part trying to mess with some heads, part speaking the truth – Even at a 4 point gap, it looks highly improbable Real will completely fall apart and lose the title. Even if they lose to Barcelona, it’s hard seeing them dropping any more points.
And for Ronaldo? Lionel Messi got plenty of attention these past 10 days for his goal scoring records. Ronaldo is a bit lagging in the ‘all competitions’ numbers, but he’s back on top in the league, reaching 40 goals, tying his record from last season, for a second straight season. This year, despite the desire to win as many individual accolades as well, Ronaldo won’t be satisfied without the La Liga title.