Red-hot Real Madrid demolish Zaragoza
Real Madrid 6 – 0 Zaragoza
A weakened Real Madrid blew away lowly Zaragoza 6-0 in front of a scant crowd at the Bernabeu last night to close the gap on league leaders and newly-crowned World Club champions Barcelona to just two points.
The exuberant strength in depth of Real’s squad was illustrated as a side missing Kaka, Pepe and Xabi Alonso, and with stars such as Raul and Karim Benzema on the bench, heated up the chilly air of the Spanish capital with a red-hot display of attacking football.
Sorry Zaragoza were swept aside and the game was effectively over as a contest shortly after the half-hour mark with both Gonzalo Higuain and Rafael Van der Vaart bagging braces without reply.
Higuain opened the scoring as early as the third minute after Marcelo measured a pass in between the Zaragoza backline which sent the in-form Argentine striker through on goal to finish emphatically with a left-footed strike into the far corner.
Real doubled their advantage on 26 minutes and Marcelo was again the architect.
The skilful Brazilian continued to enhance his claims for a spot in Carlos Dunga’s World Cup squad with another impressive livewire performance and scooped a pass through the statuesque defence for the advancing Van der Vaart to slot home into the bottom corner.
Van der Vaart -enjoying a rare spell in the Real first team – completed a quick-fire brace two minutes later.
Sergio Ramos chipped a cross towards the far post and beyond veteran Zaragoza captain Roberto Ayala’s desperate attempt to clear for Van der Vaart to divert past goalkeeper Javier Vallejo from close range.
Zaragoza forced Real goalkeeper Iker Casillas into his only save on the half-hour mark after Lafita’s snapshot from all of 30 yards needed to be turned wide of the right post.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side went in at the break with the season’s highest first-half goal margin after Higuain scored his second of the game with a truly sumptuous strike.
Ronaldo’s ball into the box was only partially cleared by Ayala and Higuain took the ball out of the night air with an exquisite touch to flick the ball over the head of Javier Paredes before turning to hook the ball on the half-volley with unerring accuracy past Vallejo’s out-stretched palm into the top corner.
The spectacular goal extended his prolific record to 10 goals in 12 La Liga appearances and, in current form, the Argentine will be hotly-tipped to make a big impact in Diego Maradona’s side during next summer’s World Cup finals.
The first-half action was drawn to a close after Ronaldo sent a trademark free-kick fizzing wide of Vallejo’s left-hand post from 30 yards.
Real began the second half in the rampant fashion that they began the first and Ronaldo extended his side’s margin to five with an outrageous effort on 50 minutes.
Ezequiel Garay’s cross towards the far post was instantly controlled under the right foot of the Portuguese magician before he sent two defenders and the goalkeeper to the ground with mesmeric trickery and curled the ball left-footed into the far corner from six yards.
Second-half substitute Benzema completed the rout after outfoxing former Real defender Francisco Pavon to turn and drive into the box before wrapping the ball inside the foot of the far post and into the net 12 yards from goal.
Ronaldo could, and perhaps should, have made it seven on 74 minutes after Real countered from a Zaragoza corner at breakneck speed and found the former Manchester United superstar at the edge of the box, but he got underneath his attempt to curl the ball into the top corner and blazed it high into the stands.
Real Madrid: Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Albiol, Garay, Arbeloa, Diarra, Lass, Van der Vaart (Granero, 73), Marcelo (Benzema, 63), Ronaldo, Higuain (Raul, 63)
Zaragoza: Vallejo, Diogo, Pavon, Ayala, Paredes, Ander, Ponzio, Aguilar (Lopez, 65), Pennant (Braulio, 87), Arizmendi (Ewerthon, 65), Lafita
Man of the Match: Cristiano Ronaldo – Scored an outrageous goal and became increasingly influential with his direct running and selfless play.