UEFA Champions League
Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, Madrid, Spain
Real Madrid have one foot in the UEFA Champions League Final after thrashing their city rivals Atlético Madrid 3-0, courtesy of a Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, in the first-leg of their Semi-final tie.
Ronaldo, who grabbed a hat-trick in his side’s previous Champions League match against Bayern Munich, completed yet another: his 42nd, when he fired home five minutes from time, after doubling Real Madrid’s lead in the 73rd minute with a sublime half-volley, having earlier given Los Blancos the lead with a header in the ninth minute.
In what was a repeat of last season’s Champions League Final and the 2014 Final, the hosts started well and went close to taking the lead in the sixth minute when Dani Carvajal exchanged passes with Isco before firing an effort that Jan Oblak spilled into the path of Karim Benzema, whose follow-up was tipped behind by the keeper.
Three minutes later the hosts went ahead when Ronaldo met Casemiro’s volleyed-cross to head home past Oblak, following a corner.
Six minutes later Los Blancos went close to a second when a Toni Kroos corner was met by Raphäel Varane with a glancing-header but Oblak made a fine save to brilliantly palm the effort behind.
A minute later the visitors had a good chance when Kévin Gameiro was played through on-goal by Koke but just as the striker looked set to shift the ball past Keylor Navas, the keeper palmed the ball away.
In the 23rd minute Real Madrid went close to doubling their lead when Luka Modrić curled an effort inches wide from-range after Oblak punched Marcelo’s cross into the path of the Croat.
Five minutes later the hosts nearly doubled their lead when Ronaldo found Benzema with a terrific cross that the Frenchman met with an acrobatic-volley that flew inches over the bar.
In the 31st minute the Rojiblancos had a great chance to level the scores when a brilliant Antoine Griezmann freekick was met by Diego Godín on the volley, but the defender fired the ball over the bar from close-range.
Real Madrid doubled their lead in the 73rd minute. Benzema managed to squeeze a pass through to Ronaldo after a fortuitous ricochet off Filipe Luís, which allowed the Portuguese to powerfully fire the ball home past Oblak on the half-volley.
Seven minutes later the hosts had a good chance to make it three when substitute Marco Asensio did well to beat two Atlético players before pulling the ball back to fellow substitute Lucas Vázquez, but his first-time effort flew wide.
In the 85th minute Real Madrid made it three as Ronaldo completed his hat-trick, firing home, following a swift break after a fine pull-back from Vázquez, who did well to get to the byline.
Two minutes later the hosts went close to a fourth when a fine cross from Marcelo found Modrić, who controlled the ball well with a header before volleying just wide.
The result meant that Real Madrid will need to prevent Atlético from finding the net three times, but they will also be eager to find the net themselves. Atlético will need to score at least three goals without reply but also have to deny Real Madrid from scoring themselves, which based on tonight’s performance proved to be easier said than done.