BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo set up two goals to lead Real Madrid to a 2-1 win at Athletic Bilbao and a five-point lead in the Spanish league on Saturday.
The Portugal forward passed for Karim Benzema to open the scoring at San Mames Stadium in the 25th minute.
Bilbao equalized through Aritz Aduriz’s header in the 65th, but three minutes later Ronaldo flicked on a corner kick for Casemiro to finish off and restore the visitors’ advantage for good.
“A game here is always difficult, and even more so now that we are entering the home stretch of the season,” Madrid defender Marcelo said. “But we had time to prepare for the match and it worked.”
Madrid has 65 points with second-placed Barcelona on 60 before the defending champions host Valencia on Sunday. Madrid will then also have a game in hand after next week’s international break.
The loss ended Bilbao’s home unbeaten streak at 13 games in the league, one short of a club record of 14 matches established in 1992.
Madrid spent long stretches in its half absorbing Bilbao’s pressure brought by wingers Inaki Williams and Inigo Leque.
But Madrid’s finishing prowess proved the difference.
Midfielder Casemiro played a part in Benzema’s goal when he spotted Ronaldo breaking down the left. Ronaldo received his long pass and squared the ball for Benzema to slot into the side of the net.
Madrid had little trouble repelling Bilbao’s crosses until Williams forced Navas to make a difficult save early in the second half.
Shortly after, Williams sped past Marcelo and crossed for Raul Garcia to head the ball back to the center of the six-yard box where Aduriz nodded it home.
Bilbao’s push was deflated by Ronaldo, however, when he headed on a corner kick for Casemiro to control and tap in uncontested.
“They barely threatened our area, but in two attacks Madrid got two goals,” Aduriz said. “That’s who they play. Their players up front have an amazing ability to decide matches.”
EIBAR 1, ESPANYOL 1
Enrique Garcia headed in Pedro Leon’s cross for Eibar in the 20th, before Espanyol midfielder Jose Jurado equalized shortly after halftime.
The splitting of the points did little to help both sides’ hopes of qualifying for the Europa League.