MADRID, March 28 (Reuters) - Real Madrid withstood
the pressure from second-placed Valencia and retained top spot in the Primera
Liga on Sunday when they powered their way to a stunning 5-1 win over mid-table
Sevilla at the Bernabeu.
The victory enabled the reigning champions to
retain their narrow one-point lead over Valencia, who claimed a no less
impressive 3-0 win over Racing Santander earlier on Sunday.
Goals from Real's Santiago Solari and Ronaldo,
both coming after top quality passes from a rejuvenated David Beckham, gave the
leaders a comfortable 2-0 cushion at the break.
But they moved up a gear in the second half,
completing an authoritative win with a classy strike from midfielder Zinedine
Zidane, a powerful shot from defender Michel Salgado and a mesmerising solo
effort from striker Ronaldo.
Deportivo Coruna are a distant third, eight
points behind Real Madrid, after a last-gasp own goal gifted them a 2-1 win at
Real Sociedad on Saturday.
Fourth-placed Barcelona were frustrated in their
hope of extending a winning run of 10 league matches after their game at Real
Betis was called off due to a waterlogged pitch.
Valencia midfielder Vicente produced a virtuoso
performance, scoring twice and making another goal as he steered his side to
victory over Racing.
The Spain international saw his angled cross
ricochet off Racing defender Ayoze's knee into the net in the ninth minute and
extended their lead on the stroke of halftime by drilling home after a lofted
pass from midfielder David Albelda.
Vicente completed his masterclass 14 minutes
from time when he picked up a long pass from goalkeeper Santiago Canizares, cut
inside two defenders and fired in low at the near post.
Real Madrid made light of the pressure from
Valencia at the top, though, as they got off to a flying start against Sevilla.
Solari, in the team for the suspended Luis Figo,
gave his side the lead on six minutes with a firm strike after Beckham had
threaded a pinpoint pass through the Sevilla defence.
The England captain, playing his best game for
Real since the turn of the year, also set up his side's second goal on the
stroke of halftime.
His trademark swirling cross from the right was
perfectly placed for Ronaldo to nod home with a fine glancing header at the near
Sevilla pulled one back 14 minutes into the
second half when Brazilian striker Julio Baptista scored from the penalty spot
after Maranon had been pushed in the back by Solari.
But the visitors barely had time to scent a
comeback before Real had restored a two-goal lead, Zidane dinking the ball over
Sevilla keeper Esteban after latching on to a great through-ball from Guti.
Defender Salgado made it 4-1 when he smashed
high into the net after Esteban had palmed a Ronaldo shot into his path on 75
However, it was left to the outstanding
Brazilian to close the show with a cheeky fifth as he mesmerised Esteban with
the merest hint of a shimmy and then slotted the ball past him into the net to
score his 24th league goal of the season.
By Simon Baskett