Zinedine Zidane labelled Cristiano Ronaldo as “from another galaxy” after the striker’s double dragged Real Madrid to a 2-1 win over Eibar in La Liga on Saturday.
Ronaldo headed in an 84th-minute winner at the Ipurua Municipal Stadium, having earlier put Real in front with an emphatic near-post finish. Eibar’s Ivan Ramis had equalised in between to give the home side hope.
But Ronaldo’s two goals mean he has now scored in seven consecutive games and boasts a remarkable 13 goals overall in that period.
The 33-year-old’s tally for club and country this season stands at 35 goals in 37 appearances.
“For me he’s from another galaxy,” Real coach Zidane said. “He knows that he will score. He is a different, special player. The statistics speak for themselves.”
Real move four points behind second-placed Atletico Madrid, who can restore that gap to seven with a win over Celta Vigo on Sunday. Eibar stay eighth.
After securing a 5-2 aggregate victory over Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League last 16 on Tuesday, Real swapped the Parc des Princes for the smallest ground in La Liga, with a capacity of just over 7,000.
They were below their best and rode their luck late on when Eibar should have converted a pair of excellent chances, before Ronaldo made them pay.
Gareth Bale started up front alongside the Portuguese, while Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, fit enough only to come off the bench in midweek, returned.
– Modric ‘great’ on return –
Modric was excellent throughout, the Croatian providing a sublime pass with the outside of his foot for Ronaldo’s opener.
“It’s true that after 15, almost 20 days, Luka came in and played a great game,” Zidane said.
“He is an important player for us and what he has done, he has done very well.”
Raphael Varane had to be replaced by Nacho early on after taking a bang to the head but, against the run of play, Real edged ahead in the 33rd minute.
A sloppy pass out from the back by Anaitz Arbilla conceded possession to Modric, who quickly picked out Ronaldo. He chested the ball down and slammed it in at the near post.
In front, Real improved but five minutes into the second half and Eibar were level. Sergio Ramos lost his man at a corner and Ramis nodded in from six yards.
Ronaldo should have restored the advantage but failed to convert an excellent Bale cross and from the resulting corner, Bale flashed a glancing header just wide of the post.
Isco and Kroos made way for Karim Benzema and Lucas Vazquez with 19 minutes left but Eibar had two golden chances to score a second.
First, the unmarked Takashi Inui headed over from seven yards out and then Kike Garcia hit the side-netting with only Keylor Navas to beat. They would soon prove costly misses.
In the 84th minute, Pedro Leon gave away possession too easily, allowing Modric to feed Dani Carvajal out wide. His whipped cross found the leaping Ronaldo and he made no mistake.
Later on Saturday, Valencia moved back to within a point of Real and all but ended Sevilla´s hopes of finishing in the top four by beating Los Rojiblancos 2-0.
Sevilla trailed Valencia by eight points before kick-off but that gap was stretched to 11 after two goals from Rodrigo Moreno sealed a comfortable victory.