La Liga - Slick Real Madrid win in Zaragoza
Real Madrid kept up the pressure on La Liga leaders Barcelona with an entertaining 3-1 win at bottom club Real Zaragoza.
Goals from Mesut Ozil, Cristiano Ronaldo - his 17th in La Liga this season - and Angel Di Maria gave the visitors a 3-0 lead, with Zaragoza skipper Gabi pulling one back from the spot.
Both sides pushed for more goals as Madrid briefly moved top, with Barcelona regaining the summit after a 5-0 thrashing of Real Sociedad later on Sunday.
Madrid started slowly, with Zaragoza attacking from kick off and going close when Lafita drilled a low shot inches wide with Iker Casillas beaten.
But Los Merengues took the lead on the quarter hour when Ozil finished off a scintillating counter-attack, drilling low under Leo Franco after Marcelo’s superb cross-field pass freed him down the right.
Madrid were in control but Zaragoza still threatened and Casillas was forced into a smart stop from Lafita.
But it was 2-0 by half-time when Ronaldo swerved a brilliant trademark free-kick past the standstill Franco on 44 minutes, celebrating with a grimace in keeping with his image of pantomime villain.
The game seemed over as a contest almost immediately after the restart, as a wonderful pass from the excellent Xabi Alonso split the home defence in two and sent Di Maria through, the Argentina winger lobbing his compatriot Franco with a lovely finish.
But six minutes later Ricardo Carvalho handed the hosts a lifeline after he stuck out a leg to trip Argentine playmaker Nicolas Bertolo. Gabi drilled the resultant penalty into the bottom right, which made for an exciting if uneventful final half hour.
Marco Perez, brought on just before Zaragoza’s goal, was causing problems with his direct running and the match opened up as both sides traded attacks and counter-attacks.
Despite the frantic nature of the match neither keeper was tested for some time, thanks to a combination of brave blocks from the likes of Maurizio Lanzaro and some weak finishing from Benzema.
The first real opportunity after Zaragoza’s goal fell to the Frenchman as Madrid hit them on the break. It was a three on one but Di Maria took the wrong decision to play Benzema in wide right. The angle was tight enough before Franco closed it further to block.
Benzema has struggled to hit his best form in Madrid and that was his last significant contribution as Esteban Granero was brought on to shore things up.
The pace of the game did not slow, however. Lassana Diarra was denied by brave keeping from Franco and late substitute Alvaro Morata was denied by another brave stop from Franco.
But there were no more goals as Madrid made it three wins in three games since their thrashing at Barcelona on November 29.