Cristiano Ronaldo spares Real Madrid’s blushes with late goal

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Cristiano Ronaldo scored an exquisite back-heel to rescue a point for Real Madrid in their 1-1 draw against Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday.

Madrid looked to be heading for defeat after Inaki Williams opened the scoring for the visitors after 14 minutes.

But Ronaldo, restored to the starting line-up by head coach Zinedine Zidane, provided a deft flick from Luka Modric’s 87th-minute drive to move Real to within three points of second-place Atletico Madrid having played one game more.

Zidane, whose side travel to Germany for the opening leg of their Champions League semi-final against Bayern Munich next week, headed into Wednesday’s LaLiga encounter believing his side could yet leapfrog city rivals Atletico.

Ronaldo was one of four changes to the team which beat Malaga at the weekend, but Gareth Bale’s future at the Bernabeu was thrown into further doubt after he was again left out of the starting XI.

Ronaldo came close to netting the opener with only nine minutes gone.  Dani Carvajal’s cross from the right-hand side was met by the former Manchester United forward, and while his bullet header had beaten Athletic stopper Kepa Arrizabalaga, the crossbar came to the visitors’ rescue.

Real appeared to be taking a stranglehold on the match, but they were stunned after just 14 minutes when Williams struck.

Williams latched on to Inigo Cordoba’s magnificent slide-rule pass before outpacing Raphael Varane and dinking a delightful chip over Keylor Navas for the opener.

Madrid were quick to react and it was Ronaldo involved again when his left-footed shot on the swivel looked to be creeping inside Arrizabalaga’s post only for the Bilbao stopper to turn it round for a  corner.

The hosts were enjoying more of the possession without posing a real threat on the Bilbao goal. Marco Asensio enjoyed their best moment of the first half when he ran at the Atletico defence only for Arrizabalaga to save his low shot just before the interval.

Real were in charge of the second half but moments after a Ronaldo penalty appeal was waved away, the visitors nearly doubled their lead. Cordoba’s shot was blocked with Raul Garcia smashing the follow-up against the bar.

Bale and Isco were introduced by Zidane with 20 minutes to go, but it was Ronaldo who would spare Real’s blushes in the closing stages to score for a 12th consecutive game.

The ball broke to Modric and his drive towards goal was expertly guided past Arrizabalaga by Ronaldo with just three minutes remaining.

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