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Ronaldo helps put Real back on top

By Reuters in Madrid | China Daily | Updated: 2014-01-27 08:16

Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 22nd La Liga goal of the season to pace Real Madrid to a 2-0 home victory over Granada on Saturday that lifted it above Barcelona and Atletico Madrid to the top of the standings.

Barca and Atletico have drawn their past two outings, including a 0-0 stalemate at the Calderon stadium in Madrid that allowed Real to narrow the gap in the three-horse title race.

Saturday's labored victory at the Bernabeu was Real's fifth in a row in La Liga since a 2-2 draw at Osasuna in December and it leads the way for the first time since winning the title in 2011-12.

France forward Karim Benzema was also on target as Carlo Ancelotti's side moved to 53 points from 21 matches.

Barca and Atletico have 51 points ahead of their games on Sunday at home to 15th-placed Malaga and at second from the bottom Rayo Vallecano, respectively.

"The most important thing is the balance the team has at the moment, that is the key," Ancelotti said.

"We are defending well and attacking well," said the Italian, in his first season in charge after taking over from Jose Mourinho.

"There is always room for improvement and sometimes we need to increase the tempo, but the key is the team's balance."

After a shaky start to the campaign, Real has tightened up its defense and has not conceded a goal in seven straight games, equaling its best run of clean sheets from the 1994-95 season.

The team's improvement, which has also seen it qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League and put it on the brink of a place in the semifinals of the King's Cup, coincided with the return from injury of Xabi Alonso.

The 32-year-old Spain midfielder, who dictates play from his central position, has brought stability and control to Real's game.

"We are where we want to be," Alonso told Spanish television. "But we have to keep improving, correcting things and making progress.

"We struggled a lot in the first half and they defended well while they were fresh. We played with more intensity in the second, but until the first goal arrived we found it very tough."

Ronaldo helps put Real back on top

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo shows off his Ballon d'Or trophy before the team's Spanish first division home win over Granada on Saturday. Juan Medina / Reuters


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