Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo, right, duels for the ball with Athletic Bilbao's Sabin Merino during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. (AP)
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane launched a staunch defence of star man Cristiano Ronaldo after the Portuguese scored twice in his side's entertaining 4-2 win over Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.
Ronaldo's double took him one clear of Luis Suarez as La Liga's top goalscorer with 21 and onto 32 in all competitions this season.
However, the three-time World Player of the Year has still been criticised in some quarters for his lack of impact in Madrid's biggest games and away from home this season.
"The press are here to opine on whether Ronaldo plays well or badly, if he is finished, but today he has showed he is bloody brilliant," said Zidane.
"For me Cristiano is very important on the wing. When he turns on the ball he is very good one-on-one.
"The idea was to play with Cristiano more on the wing, win the ball and play quickly towards him. He did that well and the first goal came from that type of situation. He is very hard to defend."
Victory took Zidane's impressive start as Madrid coach since replacing the sacked Rafael Benitez last month to five wins and a draw from his first six games.
However, the Frenchman faces his biggest challenge so far when Madrid return to Champions League action away to Roma on Wednesday.
Zidane's most memorable moment in a five-year playing career with Real came in scoring a spectacular winning goal in the 2002 Champions League final.
And he admitted the competition has a special attraction for him and everyone at the club having won it a record 10 times.
"I have super memories as a player and as a coach because I won it with this club as assistant manager with (Carlo) Ancelotti too, so obviously there is a particular allure," he added.
"When you're a football player you dream of playing in the World Cup, but you can dream of the Champions League every year.
"We are prepared and we want to do something important in this competition."
Madrid's other two goals came from James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos, both of whom have enjoyed a renaissance since Zidane took over.
And Colombian playmaker Rodriguez claimed the change of coach has turned Madrid's season around.
"The change of coach has been good for everyone, not just me.
"He speaks a lot with everyone and I think that is a good thing come game time. He gives you more confidence to know your true value."
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