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Sunday, September 2, 2012
ESPNsoccernet: September 3, 9:50 PM UK
Cristiano Ronaldo brace gives Real 1st win

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Real Madrid registered its first La Liga victory of the season after a comfortable 3-0 win over Granada at the Bernabeu.

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged a double, and substitute Gonzalo Higuain was also on target, while the visitors ended the game with 10 men after Borja Gomez was sent off after receiving two yellow cards.

Barcelona, meanwhile, edged out Valencia 1-0 thanks to Adriano's first-half screamer to remain perfect after three games and lead the standings.

Los Merengues made three changes from the side that beat Barcelona in the Supercopa clash as new signing Luka Modric came in for Mesut Ozil, Jose Callejon replaced Angel di Maria and Karim Benzema was preferred to Higuain. For the visitors Juanma Ortiz came in for Jaime Romero.

After a slow start, Ronaldo gave the home side the lead in the 26th minute thanks to poor goalkeeping from Antonio "Toni" Rodriguez.

Callejon played in the Portuguese down the left, whose effort across goal deflected through the stopper's legs and into the net.

The Portugal international uncharacteristically did not celebrate his goals.

"I am sad and the club knows it, that's why I didn't celebrate the goals," Ronaldo said, adding that he was upset for "professional" reasons before refusing to elaborate.

Benzema went close to doubling the advantage five minutes later, after racing onto the end of a long ball and, though he lobbed Toni, his effort went just wide of the left-hand post.

It took just eight minutes for Real to double its lead after the restart. Halftime substitute Angel di Maria played in Ronaldo, who had his first shot saved by Toni, then placed the follow up into the net.

Granada's task was made even harder approaching the hour after Gomez received a second yellow card for a late challenge on Ronaldo.

The Portuguese had to be replaced five minutes later by Higuain because of the challenge, with the knee injury causing the forward some discomfort.

"Ronaldo is an important player for us, he is our goalscorer," Madrid defender Sergio Ramos said. "I hope he takes advantage of (this week's) international break and gets better soon."

Just like in the previous two matches against Valencia and Getafe, Madrid retreated after going in front, giving Granada a chance to come forward.

Madrid coach Jose Mourinho remained unsatisfied with his team's play in the league.

"Against Barcelona we played to the limit and in league games, no. It's difficult for me to explain," said Mourinho. "I am not happy. We have to play with more intensity and work harder."

Barcelona had the chance to decide the game after Adriano's goal, but Cesc Fabregas missed two clear chances and the hosts struggled to protect their slimmest of leads in the final minutes.

"The important thing is that we pulled out the win," said Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta, recently crowned UEFA's best player in Europe. "We could have increased the margin, above all in the first half. When you have chances you have to put them in because if not you suffer later."

One of the few bright spots for Barcelona was former Arsenal player Alex Song, who fit in seamlessly with his new team, not erring in passes and providing a defensive presence in midfield.

Also Sunday, Athletic Bilbao beat Valladolid 2-0 for the Basques first win of the season. Sevilla drew 0-0 at Rayo Vallecano, and 10-man Levante came from behind to win 3-2 against visiting Espanyol.

In his first start for Madrid since joining from Tottenham, Modric looked eager to justify his $44 million price tag. The Croatia playmaker drew an early save from Toni and combined well with his new teammates.

Losing Ronaldo did little to slow down Los Merengues' attacking onslaught and with 15 minutes left it was three when Ozil played in Benzema who squared the ball for Higuain to tap home.

The Argentinean could have doubled his tally with 10 minutes left after he was played in by Marcelo, but with just Toni to beat, dinked his shot wide.

Information from Press Association and The Associated Press was used in this report.




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