Madrid: A goal each from Gonzalo Higuain and Cristiano Ronaldo gave Real Madrid a relatively comfortable 2-0 victory over Celta Vigo in the Spanish Primera Division on Saturday evening.
It was by no means a vintage performance from Los Blancos, but dominance in possession throughout the match enabled the Argentine and Portuguese to find the net in either half, in what was a largely forgettable encounter at Santiago Bernabeu.
Jose Mourinho’s men controlled the play in the opening stages of the match, and although plenty of ball retention was evident in the midfield area, there was a lack of goalmouth action to get the home faithful off their seats.
However, their dominance paid off in the 11th minute in fortuitous circumstances. Higuain found space on the left-hand side and attempted to swing the ball into the box, but his cross floated over the head of Celta goalkeeper Sergio, who appeared to be fooled by the flight of the ball.
The hosts continued their patient build-up play for much of the first period, and should have doubled their advantage when Higuain found himself on the wing again, dinking a cross into the centre for Ronaldo, but the Portuguese powered his header over the bar from just outside the six-yard box.
Celta began to grow into the match as the half went on, and Iago Aspas looked the most likely to grab a goal back for the visitors. The 25-year-old enjoyed a few decent sighters from the edge of the box, with one attempt forcing Iker Casillas into a smart save.
As the second half commenced, Madrid’s play was lacklustre to say the least, with passes going astray all too often, and Ronaldo in particular was guilty of dallying in possession in the final third.
Despite playing within themselves, the home side were gifted an opportunity to double their lead, when Gustavo Cabral got the wrong side of Mesut Ozil inside the area and brought the German to the floor. A penalty kick was awarded and Ronaldo stepped up confidently to dispatch into the bottom left corner.
Having withdrawn Kaka at half-time for Angel di Maria, Mourinho utilised his squad further with 20 minutes to go, introducing Jose Callejon in place of Ozil, and the substitute almost made an immediate impact when he latched on to a Higuain pass down the inside right channel, only to see his shot flash past the left-hand post.
The 25-year old was impressive after coming on, and had another opportunity to get his name on the scoresheet in the 78th minute when he drifted beyond the Celta defence and took down Sergio Ramos’ pass over the top. His swift turn led to a strike at goal, but his attempt was stopped by the legs of the visiting goalkeeper.
That proved to be the last action of an underwhelming encounter; Real Madrid now move within five points of league leaders Barcelona, with the Catalan side facing Deportivo on Saturday evening. Celta Vigo remain in the bottom half of the table with nine points taken from eight matches.