Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo silenced the doubters who were writing him off at the start of the season by moving to the top of La Liga’s scoring chart with two goals on Saturday.
Ronaldo’s ninth and 10th goals of the campaign in a 2-1 win over Sporting Gijon moved him ahead of Barcelona rivals Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, who have both found the net eight times.
It is a pleasing turnaround for the Portugal captain, who faced heavy criticism at the start of the season when he still appeared to be reeling from a knee injury suffered in the Euro 2016 final.
He made his worst ever goalscoring start to a season with Real, scoring four goals in his first eight games in all competitions, but has since returned to his usual form.
He scored his first hat-trick of the season for Real in a 4-1 slaying of Alaves at the end of October and returned from international duty with another treble in a 3-0 win over Atletico Madrid last week.
That was Real’s first league win over their city rivals in more than three years, and Ronaldo made it five goals in his last two league games with his double against Sporting, the first a penalty, the second a diving header.
“That’s what Cristiano is like, he can score goals at any moment,” said Real coach Zinedine Zidane.
“When he doesn’t score goals everyone thinks he is not playing well. Today he scored twice and worked hard, down the wings and in the middle. He is fully recovered.”
With Suarez and Messi not playing until Barcelona visit Real Sociedad on Sunday, Ronaldo left the Bernabeu leading the race for the Pichichi Trophy, awarded to the top scorer in La Liga, for the first time this season.
The top three scorers in the division face a showdown next Saturday when Real, provisionally seven points clear of Barca at the top of La Liga, visit the Nou Camp.
“His second goal was magisterial,” added former Real striker and current director Emilio Butragueno.
“It was like a hammer, it was a sensational header. He was decisive yet again, but even forgetting that, it’s a privilege to be able to count on a player like him.”