Liga - Real see off 10-man Bilbao

Sun, 22 Jan 22:20:00 2012

Real Madrid maintained their five-point lead at the top of La Liga after coming from behind to beat Athletic Bilbao 4-1 at the Bernabeu.

Real Madrid's Jose Callejon (L) celebrates his goal close to Atletico Bilbao's goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz during their Spanish First Division soccer match at Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid January 22, 2012 - 0

The visitors took a surprise lead in the 13th minute when Fernando Llorente volleyed past Iker Casillas at the far post.

Marcelo equalised for Real with a splendid finish before two second-half penalties from Cristiano Ronaldo and a late Jose Maria Callejon strike saw off a spirited Bilbao side, who had Oscar De Marcos sent-off.

Brazilian playmaker Kaka was handed a start for Real Madrid. Raphael Varane partnered Sergio Ramos in defence with Alvaro Arbeloa returning to right-back after serving a suspension. Pepe, involved in controversy against Barcelona in midweek, missed the match through injury. Esteban Granero started in midfield alongside Xabi Alonso.

For Bilbao, Fernando Amorebieta moved out to left-back with Jon Aurtenetxe suspended.

Marcelo Bielsa's team produced a confident first-half display and shocked the Bernabeu when they took the lead after just 13 minutes.

Llorente was on hand at the far post to fire a deep right-wing cross from Javi Martinez deftly and unerringly past Casillas.

Iker Muniain was then allowed to carry the ball a long way before shooting at Casillas. The Spain goalkeeper pushed his effort out but only to Oscar de Marcos who should have done far better than scuff his left-footed shot wide with plenty of the net to aim for.

Real were struggling to find their rhythm, although Karim Benzema missed a presentable chance when he blazed over a Ronaldo cross.

However, Jose Mourinho's side did not take long to find the equaliser and it was a lovely passage of play that led to Marcelo hitting the net.

The Brazilian collected a pass from Ronaldo, played a give-and-go with Benzema, before caressing the ball left-footed past Gorka Iraizoz.

Real were not defending well at the other end and Llorente spurned a great chance when he fired into the side-netting in the 38th minute.

Kaka, impressing in his first Liga start since October, won a penalty almost immediately after the restart after being tugged back in the area by Ander Iturraspe. The midfielder was booked, and Ronaldo struck his spot-kick emphatically past Iraizoz.

Ronaldo doubled his tally 20 minutes later, again from the spot. Benzema fired into the net but the referee had already blown for a penalty after a foul by De Marcos on Ozil in the area. De Marcos received his marching orders and Ronaldo shot low to the right of Iraizoz to put the game beyond Bilbao.

Real were now full of confidence and Gonzalo Higuain forced Iraizoz into a fine save seconds after replacing Benzema.

The Argentine striker then clattered a shot onto the near post as Real threatened to run riot. He collected a pass from Ronaldo but could not quite squeeze the ball in from a tight angle.

Fellow substitute Callejon, however, continued his fine scoring record this season with a late fourth after running on to a pass from Higuain and drilling the ball into the bottom left corner from an acute angle.

Barcelona had emerged with a 4-1 win of their own against Malaga earlier in the day but there is no change the top of La Liga after another stylish Real Madrid victory.

Stewart Coggin - @SCoggin_journo / Eurosport

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