MADRID — Cristiano Ronaldo has taken Real Madrid to the verge of its first Spanish league title in five years.
Ronaldo scored early in each half as Madrid defeated 10-man Celta Vigo 4-1 on Wednesday to retake the league lead from Barcelona and move within a point of winning the title.
A draw at mid-table Malaga in the final round on Sunday will allow Madrid to lift the trophy and avoid its longest title drought in La Liga since the 1980s.
"One game to go," Ronaldo said. "We have to keep going until the end."
The victory at Celta in a game postponed from February because of bad weather gave Madrid a three-point lead over Barcelona, which hosts eighth-place Eibar in its final match on Sunday. The Catalan club still has a chance of winning its third straight title because of a better head-to-head tiebreaker.
"We played with a very good attitude, with a lot of determination and personality," Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. "We knew that the three points were the most important thing, but we went out there to play, the win was only a consequence."
Madrid played with an extra man after the controversial sending off of Celta forward Iago Aspas, who picked up a second yellow in the 62nd minute for an alleged dive inside the area after a challenge by Madrid defender Sergio Ramos.
Celta players loudly complained, and there were more complaints a few moments later when Ronaldo fell inside the other box in an apparent flop – but was not shown a yellow card that would have suspended him from the final round.
Ronaldo opened the scoring at the Balaidos Stadium after picking up the ball just outside the area and firing a firm left-foot shot into the corner. The ball went through the legs of defender Gustavo Cabral and gave goalkeeper Sergio Alvarez no chance.
Ronaldo added to the lead after halftime with a well-placed shot from inside the area after receiving a perfectly timed pass by Francisco "Isco" Alarcon in a breakaway.
It was Ronaldo’s 13th goal in his last eight matches, and 24th in league. The Portugal star missed the chance for a hat trick in the 75th minute, incredibly missing from close range with only the goalkeeper to beat.
"I did the hardest part, which was to score the first goal and then the second," Ronaldo said. "Obviously it’s not common for me to miss like that, but it can happen, I’m human and I also make mistakes."
Ronaldo hadn’t played an away match in the league since March, a run of four straight games.
Celta, with nothing left to play for, improved after conceding the first goal and started to threaten, with Aspas creating a series of chances. But its hopes of a comeback started to sink after Ronaldo found the net for the second time, and then sank further after Aspas was dismissed.
Celta’s lone goal was scored by John Guidetti with a shot from outside the area in the 69th, just a minute before Karim Benzema restored Madrid’s two-goal lead from close range after a left-flank cross by Marcelo. Toni Kroos completed the scoring in the 88th.
Celta had eliminated Zidane’s team from the Copa del Rey quarterfinals this year, beating Madrid 2-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium and drawing 2-2 at the Balaidos. It reached the semifinals of the Europa League, being eliminated by Manchester United.
The game against Celta was originally scheduled to be played on Feb. 5 but was postponed because heavy winds damaged the roof of the Balaidos, making it unsafe for players and spectators.
Madrid wanted to avoid Celta so late in the season, but there were no other dates available as Celta was in the Europa League and Madrid in the Champions League. Madrid will play Juventus in the Champions League final on June 3.