La Liga news

Karanka hails hero Ronaldo

December 2, 2012
By ESPN staff

Real Madrid assistant coach Aitor Karanka praised Cristiano Ronaldo after the forward scored one goal and created another as they cut the gap on second-placed rivals Atletico Madrid.

• Corrigan: Ronaldo the difference
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• Blog: Business as usual

Ronaldo's efforts proved crucial as Real won 2-0 and kept alive a remarkable 14-year unbeaten run against their cross-town rivals. The club now sit five points behind Atletico, but it was not surprising to Karanka that Ronaldo was able to end a 310-minute goal drought in such an important match.

"Cristiano has again scored a goal, got one assist and hit two shots against the crossbar. He is being his usual self," said Karanka.

Jose Mourinho's assistant also hailed the character of the squad after what was a somewhat scrappy Madrid derby at the Santiago Bernabeu.

"We believed it would be a tough game in the sense that Atletico came here with a lot of confidence. Everybody assumed that this would be the year [that Atletico would win the derby], but we showed personality.

"I think the stronger always win. Real Madrid already have strong character, and even more against a city rival that comes here in good form, so this has been a positive match. It was a game to please the fans after the defeat to Betis," stated Karanka.

However, Real still remain 11 points adrift of league leaders Barcelona, who dismantled Athletic Bilbao at the Camp Nou. Following their 5-1 win, manager Tito Vilanova played down his side's record breaking start to the season as they moved to 40 points after 14 matches.

"I'm very happy to be able to secure this record, but even more so by the performance of the players, how they played the game," said Vilanova.

"It's fine to get these wins. We're happy, but we're more proud that today, in winning 5-1, we kept pushing, trying to press. If we continue to be strong, I'm sure we will win more games and surely will continue fighting for titles.

"Athletic play in a totally different way to other teams. They make it very difficult. Though the result is emphatic, it was not an easy game."

"Of course there are things to improve, but the important thing is that we want to win and we have the ability to work hard. It is clear that we can lose games, but (working hard makes it) much harder to lose."

A brace from Lionel Messi during the match left the 25-year-old needing just one more goal to equal Gerd Muller's 1972 record of 85 in a calendar year.

Information from the Press Association was used in this report.