Cristiano Ronaldo scored another European hat-trick as Real Madrid beat Atletico 3-0 in their Champions League semi-final, first leg clash on Tuesday.
The Portugal international has now netted back-to-back trebles in the competition after also doing so against Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals and put himself on level terms with Barcelona’s Lionel Messi for Champions League hat-tricks (7).
Ronaldo wasted no time in putting the home side ahead, nodding home in the ninth minute from a Casemiro cross and produced a fantastic finish in the 73rd minute to double Real’s lead.
He rounded off a fine evening for himself and his club by slotting home from the middle of the box 13 minutes later to put Real in the driving seat in the tie, where they will take their 3-0 advantage into next Wednesday’s second leg at the Vicente Calderon Stadium.
Real started the game well and could have gone ahead in the seventh minute. Isco and Dani Carvajal linked up on the right before the latter poked the midfielder’s cross towards goal, only to see it pushed away by Jan Oblak. The Atleti goalkeeper did so again seconds later as Karim Benzema tried to slip home the rebound, but it was turned past the near post.
Two minutes later Ronaldo rose to put Real ahead. Casemiro lofted a great ball into the box and the 32-year-old nodded the midfielder’s delivery home.
As the half began to open up, both goalkeepers were tested. Oblak made a fine save to keep out a Raphael Varane header in the 16th minute before Keylor Navas stopped Kevin Gameiro in his tracks as the striker raced through on goal, going down low to get a strong hand to the ball.
It could have been a spectacular second for Real just before the half-hour mark as Benzema threw himself into an acrobatic overhead kick but it just went wide. Atletico went close minutes after Benzema’s acrobatic effort, Diego Godin volleyed an Antoine Griezmann cross over the bar at the back post.
Both sides made changes at the start of the second half, with Nacho replacing Dani Carvajal before the restart and Diego Simeone bringing on Fernando Torres and Nico Gaitan for Kevin Gameiro and Saul Niguez after 12 minutes.
In contrast to a frantic first period, there were few chances after the break, although Real were arguably lucky to end the game with 11 players as Isco lunged into a late tackle on Koke in the 65th minute when already on a yellow card. However, English referee Martin Atkinson did not book him again, much to the dismay of Simone on the sidelines. The midfielder was substituted soon after.
With 20 minutes left to play, Real kicked things into high gear as Benzema almost turned home from a Marco Asensio cross, only to be thwarted by some fine defending from Godin.
But three minutes later and Ronaldo nabbed his second. Benzema beautifully teed-up his team-mate near the top of the box as he volleyed home from around 15 yards, producing a superb curling finish into the top corner.
His night was not over yet though, as he completed his hat-trick in the 86th minute in what was another dominant display from the striker. Lucas Vasquez put in some fine work down the right-hand side, gliding past Godin before sweeping a cross into the box which found the feet of Ronaldo on the penalty spot. He took a touch before slotting home past Oblak.