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Madrid ease past Sevilla to edge closer to title

Madrid ease past Sevilla to edge closer to title

Real Madrid closed in on their first league title in four years by strolling to a 3-0 victory over Sevilla.

Madrid: Karim Benzema scored two second-half goals as Spanish leaders Real Madrid closed in on their first league title in four years by strolling to a 3-0 victory over Sevilla on Sunday.

The France striker struck twice in quick succession early in the second half as Madrid bounced back from their Champions League semi-final exit to Bayern Munich.

Barcelona prevented their arch rivals from seizing the trophy for at least another round, though, with a 7-0 thrashing of Rayo Vallecano later on Sunday keeping their slim chances of a fourth straight league trophy alive. It was Barcelona's first game since coach Pep Guardiola announced he was leaving at the end of the season, with assistant Tito Vilanova his replacement.

Cristiano Ronaldo extended his league record goal total to 43 with a first-half opener that was the Portugal forward's 57th goal of the season at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium.

Madrid showed no side effects from Wednesday's disappointing European loss when Ronaldo and Kaka both failed to convert penalties in Madrid's bid for a first Champions League final appearance in 10 years, and faced few scares from an inconsistent Sevilla.

"This is good for us, it was a very important game for us as we continue on looking to be champions," Benzema told Canal Plus TV. "The Champions League is in the past, we only care about the league now."

After a bright opening from the visitors, Madrid quickly picked up their game, and in the eighth minute they had a penalty claim when Ronaldo was felled by Juan Cala in the box. Nothing was given but just three minutes later the Portuguese was in behind again. Ronaldo latched onto a Mesut Ozil through-ball and rounded the keeper. His touch took the ball too wide though, enabling the defenders to stop his cut-back from reaching Benzema.

Benzema set up Ronaldo's 19th-minute opener as he rolled a short pass into his teammate's path and the Portugal forward cut back to shake his marker and slot home a low shot inside the opposite corner.

A flurry of three chances in four minutes came for the visitors soon after. Marcelo was leaving acres of space on the left, and with 25 minutes on the clock, Jose Antonio Reyes failed to beat Iker Casillas with an extremely tame effort; then both Jesus Navas and Alvaro Negredo blazed over the bar in one-on-one situations.

Benzema then tested Javi Varas, who had denied Marcelo from a tight angle, before watching the post stop Ronaldo's free kick from next to the penalty spot in the 36th.

Benzema atoned for a pair of first-half misses in the 48th when he redirected Angel di Maria's skipping cross into the area past Varas.

Four minutes later, Varas could only watch Benzema's powerful header of a Sergio Ramos cross fly past him into the top of the goal. It was the Frenchman's 20th league goal and 31st in all competitions, making this his best season at Madrid.

Sevilla were far more cautious in committing men forward for the remainder of the game. Madrid, therefore, controlled the closing stages but failed to add to the scoreline, with the referee refusing to give any of a number of penalty claims for the hosts.

Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas was rarely tested aside from Alvaro Negredo's weak effort moments before Benzema's first goal.

Madrid extended their league record goal tally to 112 goals with three games remaining for the club to further inflate the total.

The club also maintained their seven-point advantage over the three-time defending champions for at least another three days, and can secure the title regardless of Barcelona's result against Malaga on Wednesday if they win at Athletic Bilbao.

"The sooner [we win the league], the better," Madrid assistant coach Aitor Karanka said.

Madrid, who can clinch their record 32nd trophy, have 91 points to Barcelona's 81.