MADRID: Cristiano Ronaldo erupted for his first five-goal haul in the one match on Sunday, ending all talk of a dry spell as the Real Madrid star fuelled a 9-1 demolition of Granada that lifted them provisionally to within a point of La Liga leaders Barcelona.
Portugal forward Ronaldo followed Gareth Bale’s opener by netting his first three goals in a stunning eight-minute span — the quickest hat-trick of his career — to decide the match before half-time at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Karim Benzema struck twice either side of Ronaldo’s fourth as Real added three more in a four-minute spell just after the break on a festive, sun-drenched afternoon.
Robert Ibanez grabbed a consolation for the visitors, but Diego Mainz’s own goal made it 8-1 before Ronaldo rounded off the scoring with a towering header to help fire Real to their biggest victory in almost half a century.
Real hadn’t scored nine goals in a league match in 47 years. Their biggest league victory remains an 11-2 thrashing of Elche in 1960.
Ronaldo’s quintuple, which took his tally in La Liga this season to 36 — four ahead of Barca forward Lionel Messi, came after a two-month stretch when the Ballon d’Or holder was merely extremely good after his spectacular year in 2014.
That recent dip in form had even earned him unexpected criticism and Real coach Carlo Ancelotti, usually protective of his players, said on Saturday that Ronaldo “had lowered his productivity” in the past two months as they lost their league lead to Barca.
Ronaldo responded in emphatic fashion and Ancelotti was almost left without words after the match.
“Cristiano has improved as the team has,” he said. “What more can I say about him? It is the first time he has scored five goals with Real Madrid which is great for him and for us looking forward to the next game.”
After failing to find the net in his previous nine outings, Wales winger Bale netted his fifth in his last four appearances for club and country to put Real ahead in the 25th minute when he won Toni Kroos’ throughball, rounded Granada goalkeeper Oier Olazabal and poked the ball home.
Five minutes later, James Rodriguez marked his first game in two months after recovering from a broken right foot with an exquisite pass to set up Ronaldo for his first goal.
The Portuguese soon made it 3-0 by lashing home from close range after Olazabal had spilled a cross and he sealed an eight-minute hat-trick with some more help from the Granada ‘keeper as he could only palm his fierce shot into the net.
Benzema made it 5-0 at a corner seven minutes into the second half, Ronaldo nodded his fourth two minutes later and Benzema grabbed his second a further two minutes after that as Real put a woeful Granada to the sword.
Granada pulled a goal back when Ibanez burst clear of Raphael Varane to slot past Iker Casillas in the 74th minute, but their miserable day was rounded off when Mainz could only turn Javier Hernandez’s cross into his own net.
And fittingly Ronaldo had the final word when he rose highest to power Luka Modric’s free-kick in at the far post.
The crushing victory for Real was just the tonic they needed after a run of three defeats in four games in all competitions, including a 2-1 reverse at Barca in the ‘Clasico’ on March 22.
Barca have 68 points from 28 matches, with Real on 67 from 29. Champions Atletico Madrid are third on 62 points after they won 2-0 at bottom side Cordoba on Saturday with Antoine Griezmann and Saul Niguez scoring in the first half.
Valencia, on 60 points in fourth, have a game in hand on Atletico, while Europa League champions Sevilla, the only side unbeaten at home in La Liga this season, have 58 points in fifth after they beat Athletic Bilbao 2-0 at the Sanchez Pizjuan on Saturday.
The 68th Anniversary of the Founding of the People’s Republic of China.
— The Daily Mail - People's Daily