Ronaldo bags hat-trick as Real keep pace with Barcelona
CRISTIANO Ronaldo was the inspiration as Real Madrid avoided losing further ground to Barcelona with a 4-2 win over Villareal at the Bernabeu last night.
Jose Mourinho's charges are now two points behind the leaders, who disposed of Deportivo la Coruna on Saturday night, but Real got a scare against Villareal, who led twice.
Ronaldo equalised twice in the first half before putting his side ahead with a strike that looked off-side. Kaka capped his return from injury with the fourth goal.
Barcelona will have another cause for celebration tonight, when one of Andres Iniesta, Lionel Messi or Xavi will be crowned the winner of the Fifa Ballon d'Or in Zurich.
"It's an incredible achievement of incalculable dimensions," Barca coach Josep Guardiola said of the shortlist, which was made up of three players from the same team for the first time since AC Milan dominated the award in 1989.
Barca won their 12th successive league match on Saturday, beating Deportivo 4-0 away. Iniesta and Messi scored, Messi curling in a free-kick for his 18th league goal of the season, and his 28th in all competitions. David Villa and Pedro were also on target for Barca, who have now scored 84 goals this season in all competitions.
"We had five chances and scored four goals," Guardiola said, praising the team's clinical display.
In Italy, former Barca forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic's late, late equaliser denied Udinese a shock victory over Serie A leaders AC Milan in a 4-4 thriller that extends the Rossoneri's lead at the top.
With Lazio losing to Lecce at home, Milan were 3-1 down with 20 minutes remaining, but fought back thanks to a Medhi Benatia own goal and Pato's leveller.
German Denis thought he had given Udinese an unlikely 4-3 victory in the 89th minute, but substitute Antonio Cassano teed up Ibrahimovic in the third minute of injury-time to clinch a key point.
Leonardo's great start as Internazionale manager continued, his resurgent team coming back from a goal down to gain a hard-fought 2-1 victory at Catania, Esteban Cambiasso scoring both.
Arjen Robben scored on his return from injury for Bayern Munich in a friendly win in Qatar.
Auxerre and Monaco were the big losers in the French Cup as they crashed out to lower league opposition Wasquehal and Chambery.