This day in history of Ronaldo
MADRID (AFP) - Spanish league leaders Real Madrid turned on the style with three second-half goals in 16 minutes to beat Celta Vigo 4-2.
The victory consolidated the reigning champions' lead in the Spanish championship race after their nearest rivals Valencia had earlier gone down 2-1 at struggling Espanyol.
"This was a crucial victory. Nothing is certain but the eight points between Valencia and us certainly helps," said Real coach Carlos Queiroz.
"We struggled at times and a defeat would have complicated life, but now things are a bit more comfortable.
"This wasn't a great display from us and we lost a lot of passes but we played with discipline, made chances and scored the goals we needed."
Celta's recent arrival Sasa Ilic got his first goal for his new club, firing home a Alexander Mostovoi corner after 18 minutes to silence the Santiago Bernabeu faithful but Real moved up a gear after the break.
Ronaldo got his 22nd goal of the season after 55 minutes, nipping in after Celta keeper Jose Manuel Pinto had failed to control a David Beckham header.
Real took the lead nine minutes later when Zinedine Zidane headed home a Luis Figo pass.
Figo himself was on the scoresheet seven minutes later after latching onto a deep pass from Beckham.
Celta's Savo Milosevic reduced the deficit seconds before the end of regulation time but Zidane drove home his second two minutes into injury time as the Celta defence was caught napping again.
"We lost this game, Real didn't win it. The errors were all ours. We lost a big opportunity to get some points," lamented the Celta coach Radomir Antic.
Real now have 59 points from 26 matches with Valencia on 51 points.
Spanish international striker Raul Tamudo got both of Espanyol's goals against Valencia, in a game played in a snow storm, to give the Barcelona-based club a glimmer of hope that they can avoid relegation.
He opened the scoring seven minutes before the break when Ivan De La Pena found him with a defence-splitting pass but Tamudo's second goal will be the one that causes Valencia keeper Santiago Canizares to cringe when he sees the replays.
Canizares completely fluffed his attempt to catch Tamudo's shot after 76 minutes and the ball hit him in the face before spinning into the net.
Mista Ferrer headed a reply for Valencia after 78 minutes but it was not enough for them to avoid suffering their second league loss in eight days.
"Have we let the league escape today?" rhetorically asked Valencia coach Rafa Benitez.
"Well, that depends on your point of view. We lost three points but there is still plenty of time left this season. We didn't really play as well as we could have done during the first half but we woke up after the first goal," added Benitez.
Third-placed Deportivo La Coruna are one point further back but blew their big chance to move up when they lost 3-2 at home to Barcelona late on Sunday.
Resurgent Barca have now won six games in a row and are fourth with 46 points, with Ronaldinho contributing two of their goals in a thrilling encounter.
Ronaldinho opened the scoring after 24 minutes with his first headed goal in the league.
Five minutes later, the Brazilian World Cup winner provided the service for Javier Saviola to get Barca's second before getting his 10th goal of the season three minutes after the break.
Deportivo fought back with Walter Pandiani scoring twice, both goals coming from headers, but Barca hung on despite spending the last 15 minutes with just 10 men after Thiago Motta picked up his second yellow card.
However, the debate about Spanish refereeing standards is sure to continue as television pictures showed that the referee had clearly confused Motta with his team mate Presas Oleguer on both occasions.
Spanish league table
Note: Racing Santander deducted one point for fielding an ineligible player
Spanish league leaders Real Madrid turned on the style with three second-half goals in 16 minutes to beat Celta Vigo 4-2.