Real inch closer to title

Real inch closer to title

Madrid team set to become Spanish champions after four years

Cristiano Ronaldo struck his 43rd league goal of the campaign to set Real Madrid on their way to a 3-0 home win over Sevilla on Sunday that put them within a whisker of a first La Liga title in four years.

IN TOP FORM: Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo scores past Sevilla’s Cala for his 43rd La Liga goal this season at the  Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on Sunday. AP

It was a much-needed return to winning ways for Jose Mourinho's side after the shock of Wednesday's Champions League semifinal elimination by Bayern Munich and they could clinch the title later on Sunday if second-placed Barcelona lose at Rayo Vallecano.

 Karim Benzema contributed a quickfire double early in the second half as Real moved on to 91 points with three games left, with Barca, whose three-year stranglehold on the Spanish title is almost certainly drawing to an end, 10 adrift on 81.

The holders were also dumped out of Europe in midweek, losing 2-3 on aggregate to Chelsea on Tuesday, and were stunned three days later by the news that coach Pep Guardiola was stepping down after four years during which he led the team to 13 trophies.

"We won this game which was very important and now we'll carry on so we can close out the league title," Benzema said in an interview with Spanish television.

"The Champions League is finished so now we need to make sure we win the next most important competition," added the France international.

Ronaldo's 19th-minute opener at the Bernabeu, scene of Real's dramatic penalty shootout defeat to Bayern, was his 57th in all competitions and he became the first player since Everton's Dixie Dean 80 years ago to score 43 league goals in a season.

Benzema made it 3-0 with goals in the 48th and 52nd minutes as Sevilla, who squandered a host of good chances, were swatted aside. The Andalusians are ninth on 46 points and in danger of missing out on a lucrative place in Europe next season.

Benzema's brace took his league tally for the campaign to 20 and with strike partner Gonzalo Higuain on 21 it is the first time three players from one club have scored 20 or more goals in a La Liga season. Their combined total of 84 is 30 more than third-placed Valencia.

Unai Emery's side have 55 points while ambitious, Qatar-owned Malaga are tied on 52 with fourth-placed Levante, who won 3-1 at home to Granada on Saturday. Athletic Bilbao and Atletico Madrid both have 48 points in sixth and seventh respectively, ahead of their games at Real Zaragoza and Real Betis.

The Europa League finalists, who face off in the competition's showpiece in Bucharest on May 9, are level on points with eighth-placed Osasuna, who drew 1-1 at Villarreal on Saturday.

Santander relegated

Cash-strapped Racing Santander, cast adrift at the bottom of La Liga, were relegated to the second division after losing 0-3 at Real Sociedad on Saturday.

French winger Antoine Griezmann scored twice and set up a third goal for Imanol Agirretxe as Sociedad gained a measure of revenge over the north-coast rivals who had helped condemn them to the drop in 2007.

Racing, who celebrate their centenary next year, have failed to register a victory in 17 matches. They have 26 points and are 12 from safety with three games left. "It's understandable that everyone is emotionally destroyed," Racing's third coach of the campaign Alvaro Cervera told reporters.

"Now we have to do our best to represent an institution that has been around for 99 years and that deserves our maximum respect (in the remaining games)."

Racing have spent the last decade in Spain's top division but were left in disarray after a takeover by Indian businessman Ahsan Ali Syed turned sour last year.

The club said Ali Syed, who had promised to put Racing on the international map, failed to honour his commitments and they went into administration in July with debts of more than 30 million euros ($39.78 million).

Elsewhere on Saturday, Sporting Gijon boosted their survival chances with a 3-0 victory at Espanyol that moved them above Real Zaragoza to third from bottom on 34 points, four short of next best Villarreal.

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