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Spanish League: Ronaldo returns with goal

Ronaldo returned from injury to score a goal and Zinedine Zidane had two to lead Real Madrid's 4-0 win over Espanyol on Saturday, moving it within 10 points of Spanish league-leading FC Barcelona.

india Updated: Feb 05, 2006 14:34 IST

Ronaldo returned from injury to score a goal and Zinedine Zidane had two to lead Real Madrid's 4-0 win over Espanyol on Saturday, moving it within 10 points of Spanish league-leading FC Barcelona.

Jose Maria "Guti" Gutierrez also scored for Madrid, who won their seventh straight in league and Copa del Rey play to continue a revival under coach Juan Ramon Lopez Caro, who replaced Vanderlei Luxemburgo in December.

"We did a great job in terms of our ability, organization and work. What was most important was the team worked with the right attitude and we have to carry on like this," Lopez Caro was quoted as saying by news agency Efe.

In a late game, David Villa scored from the halfway line to earn Valencia a 1-0 win over Deportivo La Coruna. Earlier, Malaga beat Athletic Bilbao 2-1 and moved out of last place.

Valencia's victory at Deportivo's Riazor stadium extended their unbeaten league run to 11 games and keptthem in second place, nine points behind Barcelona. It also provided some consolation for the team's elimination from the Copa del Rey by Deportivo on Wednesday. Barcelona lead the league with 52 points, Valencia has 43, and Madrid has 42.

On Sunday, Barcelona will seek to equal the Spanish record of 15 straight league wins set by Madrid in the 1960-61 season when they hosts Atletico Madrid. However, they will be without six players, including suspended Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto'o, who is with Cameroon at the African Cup of Nations in Egypt.

Guti scored Madrid's first goal at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in the 14th minute when he ran to the near post and turned in David Beckham's low cross from the right.

Zidane sidefooted the second goal from inside the area in the 43rd after left back Roberto Carlos cut the ball back from the goal line.

Ronaldo, who suffered a recurrence of a right calf injury during his previous appearance for Madrid on Jan. 8, extended the lead in the 45th by heading in a floated cross from the right by compatriot Cicinho. The goal was the Brazilian's 10th of the season. In the 51st minute, Zidane gently lifted the ball to enable him to volley home from outside the area for Madrid's fourth and his fifth league goal in three weeks.

Espanyol remained in 13th place with the loss, which could have been worse if not for poor finishing by Real late in the second half.

Villa's dramatic goal came in the 22nd minute when he spotted Deportivo goalkeeper Jose Francisco Molina off his line, prompting him to launch a 50-meter attempt that bounced once just before it entered the net.

The goal was the Spanish international's 14th of the season, four fewer than league-leading Eto'o.

Five minutes later, Deportivo midfielder Victor Sanchez failed to convert either of two attempts at the same penalty, thwarted both times by goalkeeper Santiago Canizares.

The encounter was the fourth between the teams in 16 days. Wednesday's quarterfinal second leg at Valencia's Mestalla stadium was resumed behind closed doors after an abandoned match a week earlier in which an assistant referee was struck and cut on the face by a coin thrown from the crowd.

Deportivo, who remained in seventh, have only earned only one point from their last four matches.

Malaga, who won for the first time in 10 matches, earned a victory for Manuel Ruiz Hierro in his debut as manager. Hierro, who replaced Antonio Tapia on Monday, is the brother of former Spain captain Fernando Hierro.

Defender Carlos "Litos" de Oliveira gave Malaga the lead in the 31st minute when he rose to head home Ricardo Bovio's floated free kick. The goal was Malaga's first in the new year. Bilbao forward Aritz Aduriz headed into an empty net to equalize nine minutes later after Fernando Llorente headed Fran Yeste's free kick across the Malaga goal.

Malaga had midfielder Nacho Perez ejected in the 70th minute after receiving two yellow cards in five minutes. Malaga won the game three minutes later with another goal from a free kick as striker Salva Ballesta headed home from Antonio Hidalgo's cross from the right.

Malaga climbed to 17th place with 20 points, while Bilbao dropped to 18th and into the relegation zone with 19 points.

Matches on Sunday:SevillavsOsasuna; Villarrealvs Cadiz; Zaragoza vs Real Betis; Real Sociedad vs Mallorca; Getafe vs Alaves; and Racing Santander vs Celta Vigo.