VIGO, Spain – Cristiano Ronaldo contributed a brace on Wednesday as Real Madrid pounded Celta 4-1, an outcome that leaves the Blancos needing only a draw against Malaga next weekend to claim the La Liga title.
The Portuguese international put the visitors ahead 1-0 in the 10th minute, blasting the ball past Celta goalkeeper Sergio Alvarez after a pass from Isco Alarcon.
The hosts, who ended the first half with a big edge in possession, appeared to shift into a higher gear at the half-hour mark.
Daniel Wass was on target with a direct free kick, forcing Blancos keeper Keylor Navas to make a save.
Minutes later, Iago Aspas missed twice for Celta within 60 seconds and Real Madrid got lucky in the 38th minute when the referee missed a clear hand ball by Raphael Varane on the edge of the 18-yard box.
The Blancos looked set to double their advantage in the 43rd minute as Karim Benzema worked a give-and-go with Toni Kroos on the counter, but Celta defender Gustavo Cabral prevented the Frenchman from getting a shot away.
Celta might have pulled level just three minutes into the second half if John Guidetti hadn’t thrown away a great opportunity in the Blancos’ penalty area.
Instead, the score moved to 2-0 in favor of Real Madrid as Ronaldo scored his second of the night on a lightning counter orchestrated by Alarcon.
The contest slipped into lethargy for a period before the referee ejected Aspas – Celta’s top scorer – in the 62nd minute on a second yellow card.
Aspas went down in the Real Madrid area after contact with Blancos defender Sergio Ramos. But rather than penalize the visitors, the referee cited the striker for simulation and sent him off.
With the fans at Vigo’s Balaidos stadium still riled up, the referee went on to overlook a dive by Ronaldo in the Celta area and a clear foul by Casemiro, who was already on a yellow card.
In the 69th minute, Pione Sisto benefited from a careless pass by Alarcon and got the ball to Guidetti, whose shot deflected off Ramos and past Navas to cut the Blancos’ lead to 2-1.
The comeback was short-lived, however, as Benzema scored for Real Madrid a minute later.
Ronaldo was poised to complete the hat trick in the 75th minute, but squandered the chance and the fourth goal for Real Madrid came with two minutes left in regulation, when Kroos converted with an assist from Benzema.
With 90 points, three ahead of second-place Barcelona, Real Madrid can clinch the league title with a draw in the season’s final match.