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Cristiano Ronaldo double helps Real Madrid sink spirited Athletic Bilbao

 Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates one of his two goals during Real Madrid’s 4-2 victory over Athletic Bilbao. Photograph: Pedro Castillo/Real Madrid via Getty ImagesCristiano Ronaldo celebrates one of his two goals during Real Madrid’s 4-2 victory over Athletic Bilbao. Photograph: Pedro Castillo/Real Madrid via Getty Images

Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice as Real Madrid beat Athletic Bilbao 4-2 in a thrilling match at the Bernabéu to move within a point of La Liga leaders Barcelona.

Barcelona, at home to Celta Vigo on Sunday, have 54 points, Real are on 53 and Atlético Madrid 51 before their trip to Getafe tomorrow.

Real made a blistering start and Ronaldo opened the scoring after three minutes, attacking into the box from the left, cutting inside Xabier Etxeita and beating Gorka Iraizoz for his 15th goal in 14 matches.

Athletic replied in kind, hitting Real with a string of counter-attacks and were level seven minutes later when midfielder Javier Eraso pounced on a poor back pass from Raphaël Varane to Keylor Navas and made the most of the gift.

James Rodríguez restored Real’s lead in the 37th minute with a ferocious shot from the edge of the box that the Colombian, who has struggled for form and goals, celebrated with clenched fists.

Real led by two goals at half-time after Toni Kroos scored from Ronaldo’s pass in added time.

“If it had been 1-1 at the break, it would have been possible to get a good result. When we were at our best, they scored two goals,” Eraso told reporters.

Athletic were equal to Real in the first half and Aritz Aduriz hit the bar in the 28th minute but the home side controlled play after the interval and cruised to victory.

Real had Varane sent off for a second booking after he elbowed striker Aduriz for the second time in the match as they went for a high ball.

The game ended in a flurry with Ronaldo scoring his 21st league goal in the 87th minute, Iraizoz denying him a hat-trick with a save a minute later and Athletic pulling one back with substitute Gorka Elustondo’s header in added time. – theguardian –

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