Madrid, Feb 14 (IANS) Real Madrid were made to work hard before eventually achieving a comfortable 4-2 win at home to Athletic Club Bilbao.
Real Madrid were without the injured trio of Gareth Bale, Pepe and Marcelo, while Athletic had four key players out, with Inaki Williams and Mikel San Jose suspended, while Raul Garcia had a knee injury and Markel Susaeta was suffering from flu, Xinhua reported.
The game got off to a lightening start as Ronaldo linked with Karim Benzema to curl the ball past Gorka Iraizoz and open the scoring in the third minute.
Recent visitors to the Bernabeu have caved in after receiving an early goal but Athletic made it clear they were willing to trade blows with Madrid.
Aritz Adurz should have worked Keylor Navas as early as the eighth minute only to put his header wide but Javi Erraso did level after 11 minutes after Rafael Varene’s suicidal back-pass left him with an open goal.
Aduriz then got a header on target only for Navas to make a flying save and then hit the Madrid crossbar with a neat flick with Navas beaten, while at the other end Danilo drew a flying save from Gorka, who also saved from Mateo Kovacic.
James Rodriguez scored a screaming shot in the 37th minute to put Madrid back in front, hitting a curling shot to leave Gorka helpless and Tony Kroos made it 3-1 with the last kick of the half after a smart pass from Ronaldo.
The third goal looked to have left Athletic slightly groggy at the start of the second half and Ander Iturraspe was replaced by Gorka Elustondo for a rare appearance as the game slowed down a gear or two after a high-octane first half.
Navas was out quickly after Aduriz was given space following another defensive error and Isco replaced Kovacic, before Benzema and Ronaldo both missed chances.
Real Madrid were reduced to 10 men when Varene was shown a second yellow card for elbow use but with just three minutes remaining Ronaldo took advantage of De Marcos’ slip to score his second of the game, before Elustondo scored a second for Athletic in injury time.