Barcelona: A beleaguered Zinedine Zidane got the win he needed to take some pressure off as Real Madrid’s manager.
Cristiano Ronaldo scored two first-half penalties to lead them past Valencia 4-1 on Saturday, breaking Madrid’s four-game winless streak away from home in the Spanish league.
The lopsided win at the ground of the sensation of La Liga this season came after the criticism of Zidane intensified this week following Madrid’s shock exit from the Copa del Rey quarter-finals to modest Leganes.
“I will always be under scrutiny, every day, that won’t change until the end,” Zidane said after the win at Mestalla. “What I have to do is to keep working with my players, and today I have to congratulate them for the match they played. To play well here and win 4-1 is not easy.”
Out of the cup and out of reach of runaway leader Barcelona in the league, Madrid’s chances of salvaging the campaign hinge on bettering Paris Saint-Germain when they meet in the Champions League round-of-16 in three weeks.
Despite being the coach that has led Madrid to back-to-back European Cups, Zidane was in dire need of a strong performance by his team against a quality opponent before facing the French leader.
Madrid has only games against Levante and Real Sociedad before it turns to its first showdown with Neymar’s PSG on Feb. 14.
“We know what those games (against PSG) mean for us, but we have to keep fighting for each game in the league so we can arrive to those games (vs. PSG) after a good run of results,” Madrid midfielder Luka Modric said. “It’s crazy, I can’t believe that people question Zidane after all that he has done with us.”
Madrid, which still has a match in hand, remained in fourth place but closed to within two points of Valencia in third. Madrid trails leader Barcelona by a massive 16 points before the pacesetter hosts Alaves on Sunday.
Marcelo combined with substitute Marco Asensio to penetrate the area before firing under goalkeeper Neto. Toni Kroos added a fourth goal with a shot from the edge of the area in the 90th.
In Bundesliga, Robert Lewandowski netted his 18th league goal this season as runaway leaders Bayern Munich came from two goals down to thrash Hoffenheim 5-2. Bayern have won 18 of their last 19 games and are 16 points clear in the table.
However, a dreadful start left Bayern 2-0 down at home — the first time that has happened in the Bundesliga since January 1977 — after just 12 minutes.
Bayern’s Joshua Kimmich brought down Serge Gnabry, who returns to Bayern next season when his loan spell at Hoffenheim ends, in the area with two minutes gone and the referee pointed to the spot.
Bayern goalkeeper Sven Ulreich saved Gnabry’s spot kick only for Mark Uth to tap home the rebound with three minutes gone.
Bayern’s fortunes dived further when Jerome Boateng’s poor pass was snapped up by Gnabry who drove the ball into the bottom left-hand corner.