Madrid: Real Madrid had to work a lot harder than expected as they defeated Sporting Gijon 3-1 in the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in the Spanish Primera Liga. (Agencies)
It was not until the 75th minute of the game that a Cristiano Ronaldo header, his 41st goal of the season, gave them the lead Saturday against a side which now look doomed for relegation to the second division.
Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho took his side into the match against a Sporting that kicked off second from bottom of the table with one eye clearly on next Tuesday's Champions League game in Munich and next Saturday's trip to play Barcelona in the Camp Nou Stadium, a news agency reported.
Nuri Sahin came into the side for the suspended Xabi Alonso, while Fabio Coentrao and Angel de Maria, who are both a booking away from suspension started on the subs bench.
If Madrid were expecting an easy ride, they were in for a surprise. Sporting striker Oscar Trejo produced the first chance of the game with a shot which was saved by Iker Casillas.
The game was being played in the Sporting half, and Higuain had a goal correctly ruled out for offside, before Sporting took a shock lead. Trejo worked hard to get into the area and Sergio Ramos stopped his run with a handball.
Miguel de las Cuervas drilled the penalty past Iker Casillas. It was the first penalty given against Madrid this season.
However, the visitors' lead only lasted seven minutes as poor marking allowed Higuain to head home a Ramos cross.
Mourinho reacted at halftime by bringing Karim Benzema and Angel de Maria into the game, but Sporting continued to defend well, with keeper Juan Pablo not being forced into any saves.
It was Ronaldo who broke the deadlock with a glancing header following a De Maria cross with 15 minutes remaining in the game.
Sporting were reduced to 10 men shortly afterwards as Roberto Canella was shown a well-deserved yellow card and Benzema sealed the win with his 18th league goal of the season with eight minutes left.
The win means Madrid will take at least a four point lead to the Camp Nou Stadium to play FC Barcelona next Saturday.
Madrid: Real Madrid had to work a lot harder than expected as they defeated Sporting Gijon 3-1 in the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in the Spanish Primera Liga.