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 a dominance of the ball throughout the match enabled the Argentine and Portuguese attackers to net in what was a largely forgettable encounter at Santiago Bernabeu.
Jose Mourinho’s men controlled the play in the opening stages of the match, but although plenty of possession was held in the midfield area, there was a lack of goalmouth action to get the Santiago Bernabeu faithful off their seats.
However, their dominance of the ball paid off in the 11th minute in fortuitous circumstances. Higuain found space on the left-hand side and attempted to get the ball into the box, but his attempted cross floated over the head of Celta goalkeeper Javi Varas, who appeared to be fooled by the flight of the ball.
The hosts continued their patient build up play for the first quarter of the match, and should have doubled their advantage in the minute when Higuain found himself on the wing again to dink 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 more into the match as the second half went on, and Iago Aspas looked the most likely to grab a goal back for the visitors. The 25-year old had a couple of decent strikes at goal from the edge of the box, with one attempt forcing Iker Casillas into a smart save in 26th minute
Madrid’s play in the first 20 minutes of the second period was lacklustre to say the least, with passes going astray too often and Ronaldo in particular guilty of languishing in possession too often when the ball was in the final third.
Despite playing within themselves, the home side were gifted an opportunity to double their lead in the 67th minute when Gustavo Cabral got the wrong side of Mesut Ozil inside the area and brought the German to the floor with a push to the back. 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Having withdrawn Kaka at half-time for Angel Di Mara, Jose Mourinho flexed his squad muscles further with just under 20 minutes to go when he introduced Jose Callejon in place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 by 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 before turning swiftly and lashing a strike at goal, but his attempt was stopped by the legs of Javi Varas.
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.