Ronaldo's 400th, 401st Real Madrid goals keep them on track for La Liga title; Barcelona also wins

Ronaldo and Real remain on the heels of Barca. (Reuters)

Briefly, things got nervy in both Madrid and on Gran Canaria, out in the Atlantic Ocean.

Real Madrid had let Sevilla back into the game just past halftime, after going up 2-0. In Las Palmas, Barcelona had done the exact same just after the hour. And mid-May is the time of year when any little slip could very well decide the title.

After all, Real and Barca – the two-time defending champion – are tied on points at the top of La Liga, even though the record-winners from the capital hold a game in hand. Then again, Barca controls the head-to-head tiebreaker.

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But both teams won in the end on Sunday, bouncing back from having their leads cut to 2-1 by running out to identical 4-1 victories. This ensures that the title race will go down to the wire. The sides now have 87 points apiece. Barca has a game left; Real two.

The action was highlighted by a brace for Real’s Ronaldo – who scored his 400th and 401st goals for the club (astonishingly, in just eight seasons) with a tap-in and a must-see strike – and a hat-trick for Barcelona’s Neymar. The Brazilian thus boosted his league goal total in this troubled season by 30 percent, taking it from 10 to 13 tallies.

Real Madrid’s early opener was a tad controversial, as Nacho quickly took a free kick while no one was paying attention. But the referee allowed it, and if Real itself didn’t demand that Sevilla’s wall be set up at the requisite distance, Nacho was indeed within his rights to strike the inert ball immediately.


At any rate, Ronaldo got the second in the 23rd minute. And it wasn’t just his 400th for the club but it also proved to be the match-winner that might help clinch Real’s first league title in five years.


Sevilla got dangerous thereafter, though, especially through Stevan Jovetic. He finally scored in the 49th minute when he placed a long shot into the low corner, beating the imperious Keylor Navas at last.


But Ronaldo restored order in the 78th with a stupendous strike from the Toni Kroos cutback that went in off the underside of the bar.


The German himself got the fourth. Kroos applied a marvelous finish off the outside of his boot on the ball, spinning it into the side netting.


Meanwhile, at Las Palmas, Barca took longer to get going. But in the 25th minute, Andres Iniesta received a sly backheel from Sergio Busquets and sprung Luis Suarez with a ball that was, well, perfect. The Uruguayan laid it off for Neymar at the last moment to hand the Brazilian a simple tap-in.


Just a few minutes later, Neymar returned the favor by swinging in a splendidly-placed ball over the top for Suarez. He caught up to it and chipped the goalkeeper with an impossibly subtle one-touch toe-poke to make it two.


But after the hour, Las Palmas cut the lead in half in a moment of defensive frailty by Barca as Pedro Bigas slid in a low cross on one of the home team’s rare chances.


Neymar would not stand for this. Less than five minutes later, he expertly headed a bouncing Ivan Rakitic cross against the grain and into the net with a bounce of its own.


Finally, Neymar added a third goal to his night, on which he also got an assist, with a deft little poke from a tight angle to beat both a defender and the goalkeeper.


Since nobody has flinched between Barcelona and Real Madrid in recent weeks – the Catalans have now won six in a row; Real is perfect in its last four games – a decision will have to come in the next week. Real Madrid finally plays its game in hand at Europa League semifinalists Celta Vigo on Wednesday. If it wins that match, its three point-lead means a tie at Malaga will be enough to win the league crown in next Sunday’s season finale.

Barca likely has to win its final game at home against eighth-placed Eibar on Sunday and hope that Celta or Malaga does it a favor.

Either way, the Spanish title isn’t yet concluded. And we won’t see a winner until the final whistles ring out on the La Liga season on May 21.

Leander Schaerlaeckens is a Yahoo Sports soccer columnist. Follow him on Twitter @LeanderAlphabet.

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