Ronaldo parades Ballon d’Or before firing Real to victory

Andy West 12:02 26/01/2014
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Strike a pose: Ronaldo shares his Ballon d'Or moment with his Madrid teammates.

Real Madrid moved to the top of La Liga – albeit probably only for one day – as Cristiano Ronaldo netted the crucial opener having earlier paraded his Ballon d’Or trophy to the Bernabeu crowd before the game.

Los Blancos struggled in the opening period, but improved significantly after the break and ultimately eased to the victory after Ronaldo’s effort was followed up by a strike from Karim Benzema.

And it was enough to take Los Blancos top of the pile – at least until Barcelona and Atletico Madrid return to action today.

Inevitably, the first threat came from Ronaldo, who dribbled to the edge of the Granada box before letting fly with a fierce right-footed strike which fizzed wide of the far post.

Visiting midfielder Manuel Iturra then headed against his own crossbar after an Angel Di Maria free-kick was played back across goal by Dani Carvajal, and from the resulting corner Sergio Ramos’ header grazed the roof of the net after another delicious Di Maria delivery.

But Granada were playing with commendable positive intent, and from one attacking incursion the lively Yacine Brahimi cut inside from the right to send a curling shot over the bar.

Midway through the opening period Benzema mistimed a difficult volley well wide as he ran onto a pinpoint deep cross from Marcelo, but generally Granada were frustrating the hosts with a tidy and composed performance which allowed them to control a surprising amount of possession.

Gareth Bale was enduring a particularly quiet afternoon, and the Welshman’s struggles continued as he linked up with Ronaldo to create a shooting chance but skied his effort a long way high and wide from the edge of the box.

The best moment of the opening period came in the final seconds of stoppage time, when Luka Modric’s cross was met by a brilliant overhead volley from Ronaldo, but Granada keeper Roberto did well to repel it.

Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti reacted by replacing Bale with Jese Rodriguez at the break, and his team were far more dangerous in the early stages of the second period, going close when Di Maria’s beautifully improvised shot with the outside of his left foot was plucked out of the air by Roberto.

Modric also forced a smart save from the visiting keeper after racing through the middle, and it started to appear that the opening goal was just a matter of time.

That proved to be the case, and it was no surprise at all when Ronaldo was the marksman, receiving a pass from Modric with his back to goal on the edge of the box and producing a quick change of feet to drill home a low left-footed effort on the turn.

Granada were struggling to get out of their own half and Roberto saved with his legs from Ronaldo as Los Blancos threatened more goals, and the Portuguese star went close again with a thunderous freekick which deflected onto the bar.

The second arrived when Marcelo bounded into the area and squared a precise pass into the path of Benzema for a simple left-footed finish, and the outcome was never in doubt from that moment.

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