Football

Zidane hails Ronaldo's 'perfect week'

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said people write off Cristiano Ronaldo at their peril after the Portuguese forward struck twice in the 5-0 drubbing of Sevilla on Saturday as the La Liga champions and their prolific scorer roared back to life.

Ronaldo has been widely criticised in Spain for his domestic form this season.

Before the game with Sevilla, he had scored only twice in the league, his lacklustre form mirroring Real's feeble defence of the title they won so convincingly last May.

Ronaldo was crowned World Player of the Year for a joint-record fifth time on Thursday and showed off his shiny Ballon d'Or trophies on the Bernabeu pitch before kick-off.

When the game began, he appeared to have an extra spring in his step. He latched onto a through-ball from Marco Asensio to score Real's second goal midway through the first half and then powered home the third from the spot.

"It has been a perfect week for him and I hope he continues at this pace, although I already said you have to be careful with him," Zidane said.

Ronaldo also scored in Real's 3-2 win over Borussia Dortmund last Wednesday to become the first player to score in all six Champions League group games in a season.

Said Zidane: "I don't say that for no reason, I know him well and I see how ambitious he is every day in training, he knows he's going to score.

"Sometimes, it doesn't come off for him and no one is happy about that, but you always have to be careful with him."

Zidane also praised Ronaldo's overall play, as the Portuguese helped tee-up 19-year-old right back Achraf Hakimi for the fifth goal of the game.

HE'S BACK

"After watching the game, we can safely say we have got him back," added the coach, who had to deploy a makeshift defence as he was without Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane, Dani Carvajal and Casemiro due to injuries and suspensions.

Second-placed Valencia also closed the gap on leaders Barcelona as Dani Parejo's penalty 10 minutes from time earned them a 2-1 win over Celta Vigo yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Simone Zaza scored the opening goal, before Iago Aspas equalised for the visitors and looked on course for an excellent point until Parejo's winner.

Valencia are two points behind Barcelona, but the Catalan club will restore their five-point advantage if they beat Villarreal this morning. - WIRE SERVICES

Football