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Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012

Ronaldo scores three as Real picks up pace


BARCELONA, Spain — Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat trick to power Real Madrid to a 5-1 home win over Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday, as the defending champions strung together back-to-back Spanish League victories for the first time this season.

News photo
Game face: Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring against Deportivo on Sunday in Madrid. Real won 5-1. AP

Madrid will head into next weekend's "Clasico" match at the Nou Camp eight points behind leader Barcelona, but at least Jose Mourinho's side is showing strong signs that it has recovered its dominating form from the last campaign.

Deportivo opened through Ivan "Riki" Sanchez-Rico 16 minutes in, but Ronaldo equalized from the penalty spot in the 23rd minute and netted again just before halftime after Angel Di Maria had extended the lead.

Pepe added a headed goal in the 66th before Ronaldo capped the victory with a spot kick in the 83rd.

"The most important thing about my three goals is that they helped the team to win," said Ronaldo. "We know it will be tough against Barcelona, we are playing away from home. But we have to be focused and confident that we can play a good game and get the victory."

Ronaldo's 17th career hat trick lifted him even with Barcelona's Lionel Messi with six goals each through six rounds. Both trail Atletico Madrid striker Radamel Falcao by one goal.

Also on Sunday, Atletico won 1-0 at Espanyol thanks to Raul Garcia's header to rise into second place.

Valladolid thrashed visiting Rayo Vallecano 6-1 with doubles by Oscar Gonzalez and Manucho, while Osasuna beat Levante 4-0 and Granada edged out Celta Vigo 2-1 for both teams' first wins of the season.

Until now, Madrid had been unable to reproduce the same attacking verve that had led it to convincing victories over Manchester City in the Champions League and Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup.

But after shaking off Deportivo's early goal, it quickly took care of business at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium on a night it could ill afford another slip up.

"We started without a lot of energy, but we woke up after the 1-0," said Ronaldo. "It was an important win because we knew we couldn't drop any more points.

"The key was to increase our pressure so we could score more goals."

West Brom, Villa draw


BIRMINGHAM, England — Substitute Darren Bent grabbed a late equalizer for Aston Villa in a 1-1 draw with Midlands rival West Bromwich Albion on Sunday, denying the in-form visitors a victory that would have lifted them to third place in the Premier League.

The England striker lashed in a left-foot shot from close range in the 80th minute, making a statement to new manager Paul Lambert after being stripped of the captain's armband and then being dropped to the bench following a barren start to the campaign.

"It's obviously been a difficult couple of weeks, losing the captaincy first off then finding out I wasn't playing today," Bent said. "But I managed to score the goal to get a point."

Shane Long put the visitors ahead in the 51st when he showed quick reactions to guide home a low finish after Villa defender Ron Vlaar's attempted clearance flew straight at the Ireland international.

While sixth-place West Brom has now made its best start to a top-flight season in 34 years, Villa stayed 15th having won just one of its first six games under Lambert.

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