Real Madrid earned a key 3-1 win against Sporting Gijon to cement their place at the top of the La Liga standings. It was hardly the most convincing of victories, something that will worry Jose Mourinho with his team facing a Champions League semifinal against Bayern Munich and then a trip to the Camp Nou to take on Barcelona in a week, but three points are three points and the victory ensures that no matter what happens it'll be Madrid at the top of the table at the end of the next Clasico.
Although Real dominated the early stages of play, it was the visitors who went ahead in the 30th minute after Sergio Ramos handled in the penalty area, Miguel de las Cuevas - a man who the Santiago Bernabeu isn't particularly fond of - converting the spot kick to give Sporting a shock 1-0 lead. The goal merely spurred the home side into action, however, and Ramos made up for his mistake with a wonderful raking diagonal which Gonzalo Higuain nodded past Juan Pablo for the equaliser.
A point wouldn't be good enough, though, and for a long while it looked as though Sporting would be able to hold out against their rather more illustrious opponents. Nuri Sahin rattled the crossbar with a free kick. Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo came close, but from offside positions. The visitors were defending well and there seemed to be no way through.
But whenever Real really need him this season, Ronaldo has stepped to the fore. It was no different here, and after 74 minutes the Portuguese star broke the deadlock with a glancing header from Angel di Maria's cross. The situation rapidly got much worse for Sporting when Roberto Canella picked up a second yellow for a rash challenge on di Maria and Benzema finished them off with a neat finish after being picked out by Mesut Ozil.