Real Madrid strengthened their grip at the top of La Liga with a comprehensive 3-0 win against rivals Atlético at the Calderón on Saturday night.
The visitors were clinical and efficient in the manner in which they went about their business, taking less shots but still scoring three times compared their hosts’ zero.
Central to the win was Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese international has taken a while to get going this season, but seems to have stepped up his game in recent weeks. He scored his first Real hat-trick of the season in the 4-1 win at Alaves, and has now followed that up by scoring all three against Los Rojiblancos.
The first goal was a free kick midway through the first half. There was some distance between ball and net, though it must be said that Atléti goalkeeper Jan Oblak was unlucky with the heavy deflection off his own wall.
For the second, Atlético defender Stefan Savic clumsily brought Ronaldo down in the box after a Real breakaway. The 31-year-old duly converted the resulting penalty and pretty much ended the tie as a contest with less than 20 minutes remaining.
For Ronaldo’s third goal, he owes a large debt of gratitude to teammate Gareth Bale. The Welsh international tore down the left wing past Juanfran before squaring the ball to an unmarked Cristiano to tap the ball into a virtually empty net.
Those types of finishes aren’t as easily as they look, it must be said, but one of the best players in the world can finish that with little fuss.
Amazingly, that is Ronaldo’s 39th hat-trick for Real, his 44th in total (Lionel Messi has 41, because you were definitely going to google that next). He now joins Messi and Luis Suárez on the top of La Liga’s scoring charts with eight for this season.
Real Madrid themselves, meanwhile, are now four points clear at the top of the table after Barcelona were held to a scoreless draw against Malaga at the Camp Nou on Saturday afternoon.
For Atlético, however, their title challenge could be over already.