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Ronaldo's ban no concern for Real

Five Aside
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Zidane calls Real Madrid's win against Sporting Gijon a 'game to forget'

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said that the three points taken were the only positive from Saturday afternoon's 2-1 La Liga over Sporting Gijon at the Santiago Bernabeu, but he was now happy to move on with his team still unbeaten and top of the table.

Cristiano Ronaldo seemingly put Madrid on the way to an easy victory with an early penalty and diving header, but Carlos Carmona pulled one back for relegation-threatened Sporting before half-time.

In pouring rain at the Bernabeu, the game became very scrappy in the second half, and Sporting might have equalised late on, but Croatia international Duje Cop skied a penalty over the crossbar.

Although the result took Madrid seven points clear, at least before second-placed Barcelona play at Real Sociedad on Sunday evening, the Blancos coach told a news conference that the best thing now was to turn the page and move on.

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"I'm not very happy with how we played," Zidane said. "But that can happen sometimes. Above all as we had the game in our hand. We could have made it three or four, but instead they scored and they went in at half-time feeling better.

"Then there was a lot of rain, and less concentration. We made it difficult for ourselves. It was a game to forget for us. We lacked a bit of everything, but we are happy with the three points, that is the important thing. We remain top of the table, keep on our good run, and we'll move on now."

Madrid's last defeat was 2-0 at Wolfsburg in the Champions League on April 6 last season and have since gone 31 games unbeaten across all competitions, equalling the second longest run in the club's history, set when Carlo Ancelotti was coach in 2013-14.

Asked to praise the achievement, the former Galactico instead recalled the 2003-04 campaign when a season which seemed set for glory unravelled in disappointment.

"It is something good and comes from the work of everyone, all the players, the staff, and everyone here," Zidane said. "But the important thing is at the end of the season. I remember being a player in Madrid and being leader in all competitions and then we won nothing that year."

Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates his early penalty.
Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice in a win against Sporting Gijon on Saturday.

Ronaldo is now two ahead of Barca pair Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez in the La Liga top-scorer race, after five goals in his last two outings, but Zidane said it was not a case of the Portugal star having "recovered" anything.

"You always ask me that, but this is Cristiano -- he can score goals in any moment," the Frenchman said. "When he does not score, people think he has played bad. Today he scored, again, but it is not about having recovered anything.

"He played very well, first alongside Karim [Benzema] in centre, and then working hard on the wing. He is fine."

Madrid next host third-tier La Cultural Leonesa at the Bernabeu on Wednesday evening in a Copa del Rey last 32 second leg, before they head to Barca's Camp Nou next weekend.

Zidane said that holding midfielder Casemiro, an unused substitute in Saturday's game, would make his return from two months out with a broken bone in his leg against La Cultural.

"[Casemiro] was ready to play today, but I made other changes," he said. "On Wednesday he will play, some minutes, and on Saturday he will be available like the others."

Fellow midfielder Mateo Kovacic is now a doubt for the Clasico however after suffering a recurrence of a recent ankle problem.

"Kovacic felt something -- it was recurrence of blow from before. Nothing to worry about, but it's what we changed him."

James Rodriguez put in a subdued performance for Madrid in his first La Liga start in two months, but Zidane said he had been happy that the Colombia international had got some playing time.

"I did not see [James] disconnected from the team," Zidane said. "He played his game, like the others, today. He played as always. Maybe he is lacking a bit of rhythm, continuity, but I am happy he had some time on the pitch."

Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan

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