Jose Mourinho's side took another vital step towards the Primera Division title after coming from behind to beat their stubborn Asturian visitorsCristiano Ronaldo set a new Pichichi landmark after netting his 41st league goal in a single season, while Real Madrid equalled their club record of 107 goals in one campaign as Los Blancos came from a goal down to defeat Sporting Gijon 3-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday evening.
Jose Mourinho's men found themselves behind when Sergio Ramos handled in the penalty area allowing Miguel de las Cuevas to fire the visitors ahead from the resulting spot kick.
Madrid responded seven minutes later when Ramos, making amends for his earlier error, found Gonzalo Higuain with a superb cross to nod home. Ronaldo completed the turnaround in the 73rd minute before Karim Benzema scored the third late on.
In a patchy opening that was broken up by constant stoppages, the capital giants were unable to find their usual rhythm as Sporting remained defensively sound to frustrate the home side.
Despite Real’s dominance in the early stages the best chance fell to Oscar Trejo after the visitors launched a quick breakaway. Alvaro Arbeloa was pressurised into a mistake by the midfielder allowing the Sporting man a sight of goal but could only shoot straight at Iker Casillas, who comfortably parried away.
The fabric of the game continued with Madrid dominating, as both Marcelo and Ronaldo tried their luck with long-range efforts but neither truly tested Juan Pablo. The Asturians, who had offered little as an attacking force, suddenly sensed an opportunity when Trejo burst through, forcing the Madrid defence to retreat. The Argentine looked to cut inside to fashion himself a shooting opportunity only to be denied by Sergio Ramos’ arm, resulting in the visitors being awarded a penalty.
De las Cuevas, the sole goal scorer in this fixture last season, stepped up to emphatically fire Sporting ahead to stun the Bernabeu faithful.
Mourinho’s side continued to be frustrated by the Asturians' diligent defending but were finally rewarded seven minutes after falling behind. Ramos delivered a superb cross toward the far post where Higuain had managed to steal a yard, giving him the room to divert the ball home with a glancing header.
Los Blancos came close to going ahead just before the break but Nuri Sahin’s wonderful free kick clipped the top of the crossbar as the sides went into the interval level.
The significance of the match was realised on the Madrid bench at the break as Mourinho opted to introduce Benzema and Angel Di Maria in the hope of finding a second goal.
Similarly to the first period, Real controlled the early exchanges as they looked to force an opening but the visitors' defence remained resolute as the home side’s best chances came from free kicks. However, Ronaldo failed to convert any of them despite his recent heroics.
As the match entered the final furlong, Sporting began to slow the tempo in the hope of leaving the capital with a point, but it was in vain as Madrid's pressure told 17 minutes from time. Di Maria opened up space on the right flank which allowed him to swing in a cross that found Ronaldo unmarked, and the Portugal international directed his header into the back of the net via the base of the far post.
Sporting’s resilience was finally undone when Roberto Canella was dismissed in the 80th minute. And two minutes later, the hosts sealed the victory when Mesut Ozil slipped in a gorgeous ball through for Benzema to score. The Frenchman, from an acute angle, rifled his finish past Juan Pablo into the opposite corner as Mourinho’s side notched their 107th goal of the campaign, equalling the record held by John Toshack’s 1989-90 team.
Marcelo and Benzema both wasted late opportunities to find the 108th goal but as Madrid now prepare for the trip to Bayern Munich for the Champions League semi-finals, they will travel to Barcelona four points ahead of the Catalans ahead of next weekend's Clasico showdown, as Pep Guardiola's side stayed in touch by beating Levante 2-1 later on Saturday.