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Ronaldo late brace seals Madrid comeback

sports Updated: Oct 31, 2010 10:01 IST

AP
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Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice in the last eight minutes for Spanish leader Real Madrid to rally for a 3-1 win over Hercules.

Hercules went ahead early through a David Trezeguet header before Angel Di Maria volleyed past goalkeeper Juan Calatayud for a 53rd-minute equalizer on Saturday.

Ronaldo latched onto a Karim Benzema rebound to put Madrid ahead at Jose Rico Perez Stadium before adding his league-leading 12th goal of the season four minutes later after converting substitute Benzema's 86th-minute pass. The Portugal forward nearly had a hat trick, but shot high in the closing stages.

Madrid is top of the table with 23 points, while Villarreal and Barcelona - which plays Sevilla later - are tied on 19 points. Earlier, Valencia was held to 1-1 at home against 10-man Zaragoza to go to 17 points.

Hercules came out more aggressively in the first half when Calatayud made clutch stops as Madrid pressed for an answer to Trezeguet's opener.

The French striker tallied his fifth goal of the season off a long cross from David Cortes to put Real Madrid behind for the first time this season.

Calatayud made consecutive saves in the 23rd - first blocking a hard strike from deep by Ronaldo and then extending his right foot to deflect a rebounded shot by Gonzalo Higuain.

Trezeguet tested keeper Iker Casillas three minutes later, firing in a low header from Oliver Thombert.

The visitors then began to control the tempo and the scoring opportunities as Xabi Alonso half-volleyed a clean shot high on the half-hour mark and Ronaldo had another try cleared by Cortes shortly after.

But Hercules did not pull back even with the lead, and in the 42nd Thombert missed getting off a clean shot after a nice combination. While Hercules was the better side in the first half, Madrid took control after the break.

The absence of Royston Drenthe - who helped it to a pair of wins over Barcelona and Sevilla - was noted, however, as Hercules lost some of its spark. The Dutch winger could not play because he is on loan from Madrid.