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    Ronaldo brace powers Madrid over Granada

    Sep 2, 2012

    BARCELONA, Spain—Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice before injuring his leg to steer Real Madrid to a 3-0 home win over Granada on Sunday, the defending champions’ first victory after three rounds of the Spanish season.

    Barcelona, meanwhile, edged out Valencia 1-0 thanks to Adriano’s first-half screamer to remain perfect after three games and lead the standings.

    Madrid displayed little of the attacking flair it unleashed to topple Barcelona in the Spanish Supercup earlier this week, but Ronaldo’s first league goals this season proved more than enough against the modest talents of Granada.

    Ronaldo scored in the 26th and 54th minutes before leaving the pitch grimacing and favoring his left leg following a tackle by Borja Gomez that cost the Granada defender a second booking.

    The Portugal forward uncharacteristically did not celebrate his goals.

    “I am sad and the club knows it, that’s why I didn’t celebrate the goals,” Ronaldo said, adding that he was upset for “professional” reasons before refusing to elaborate.

    With Granada down a man, Gonzalo Higuain scored in the 76th to seal the much-needed win. Madrid had only one point after the first two rounds. It trails Barcelona by five points.

    “Ronaldo is an important player for us, he is our goal-scorer,” Madrid defender Sergio Ramos said. “I hope he takes advantage of (this week’s) international break and gets better soon.”

    Barcelona had the chance to decide the game after Adriano’s goal, but Cesc Fabregas missed two clear chances and the hosts struggled to protect their slimmest of leads in the final minutes.

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    “The important thing is that we pulled out the win,” said Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta, recently crowned UEFA’s best player in Europe. “We could have increased the margin, above all in the first half. When you have chances you have to put them in because if not you suffer later.”

    One of the few bright spots for Barcelona was former Arsenal player Alex Song, who fit in seamlessly with his new team, not erring in passes and providing a defensive presence in midfield.

    Also Sunday, Athletic Bilbao beat Valladolid 2-0 for the Basques first win of the season. Sevilla drew 0-0 at Rayo Vallecano, and 10-man Levante came from behind to win 3-2 against visiting Espanyol.

    In his first start for Madrid since joining from Tottenham, Luka Modric looked eager to justify his €35 million ($44 million) price tag. The Croatia playmaker drew an early save from Antonio “Tono” Rodriguez and combined well with his new teammates.

    Ronaldo got the defending champions going in the 26th when he slotted Jose Callejon’s pass between Tono’s legs from a tight angle.

    But just like in the previous two matches against Valencia and Getafe, Madrid retreated after going in front, giving Granada a chance to come forward.

    Madrid coach Jose Mourinho sent on winger Angel Di Maria at the start of the second half to try to jumpstart his attack.

    The Argentina international quickly responded by sliding a through ball to Ronaldo cutting toward the near post. Tono did well to block his first shot, only to see the ball fall to Ronaldo’s feet for him to fire into the open net.

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    Reduced to 10 men after Gomez’s sending off, the visitors fell apart at the back, leaving Higuain alone to tap in a cross from an equally unmarked Karim Benzema and cap the victory.

    Madrid coach Jose Mourinho remained unsatisfied with his team’s play in the league.

    “Against Barcelona we played to the limit and in league games, no. It’s difficult for me to explain,” said Mourinho. “I am not happy. We have to play with more intensity and work harder.”

    Barcelona started well with Lionel Messi forcing goalkeeper Diego Alves into a diving parry to keep his early header out.

    But Diego Alves could do nothing to stop Adriano 22 minutes in.

    The Brazilian left back took a short pass from a corner, used one touch to gather momentum, and rocketed a right-footed shot from outside the area past the outstretched goalkeeper.

    Fabregas wasted two excellent opportunities to double the lead on either side of halftime.

    Messi drew the defense in and laid off for the unmarked Fabregas to send his chip shot floating by the upright. Then, Fabregas fired high after Alexis Sanchez had found him inside the box.

    “We didn’t play an excellent game, but we got a good result against an important team,” said Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez, who defended Fabregas. “Cesc is important for this team. He will make a difference and score goals for us this season.”

    Valencia, which had been limited to a miss by Roberto Soldado in the first 45 minutes, provoked nerves at Camp Nou after the restart as it started to pepper Barcelona’s area.

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    Barcelona assistant Jordi Roura, on the sideline with coach Tito Vilanova serving the first of a two-game ban for arguing with the referee, sent on Iniesta for Fabregas in the 64th.

    Barcelona, however, stalled in attack, apparently either tired or affected by the loss to Madrid on Wednesday.

    Valencia defender Victor Ruiz came inches away from scoring the equalizer when his header just missed in the 90th.

    On Saturday, it was: Celta Vigo 2, Osasuna 0; Zaragoza 0, Malaga 1; Deportivo La Coruna 1, Getafe 1; and Mallorca 1, Real Sociedad 0.

    Originally scheduled for Monday, Real Betis vs. Atletico Madrid has been postponed due to international matches.


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