Ron­aldo hat­trick

> Striker downs Atletico, to ex­tend Real Madrid’s lead over Barcelona

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS -

CRIS­TIANO RON­ALDO’S hat­trick de­liv­ered Real Madrid’s first suc­cess over Atletico Madrid in La Liga for three years with a 3-0 win in the last meet­ing be­tween the sides at Atletico’s Vi­cente Calderon.

Real now lead sec­ond-placed Barcelona by four points af­ter the Cata­lans paid a heavy price for the ab­sence of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez in a 0-0 draw with nine-man Malaga ear­lier yes­ter­day.

Ron­aldo struck the de­ci­sive spot­kick as Real edged Atletico on penal­ties in the Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal in May and was the match win­ner once more, al­beit with a slight hint of for­tune.

The Por­tuguese’s opener took a wicked de­flec­tion on its way past the ex­cel­lent Jan Oblak.

Ron­aldo dou­bled Real’s lead from the penalty spot 19 min­utes from time be­fore a bril­liant Gareth Bale cross teed him up for the sim­plest of fin­ishes to com­plete his hat­trick.

“We played an enor­mous game from the start against a very dif­fi­cult op­po­nent,” said a de­lighted Madrid boss Zine­dine Zi­dane.

“There are very few teams that can come here and win 3-0.”

A third league de­feat in four games leaves Atletico’s ti­tle am­bi­tions in tat­ters in their

Real Madrid’s Cris­tiano Ron­aldo ( cen­tre) in ac­tion against Atletico Madrid’s Gabi dur­ing their La Liga match at the Vi­cente Calderon, Madrid yes­ter­day. fi­nal sea­son at the Calderon.

Diego Sime­one’s men are now nine points adrift of Real down in fifth.

“Above all in the first-half they were bet­ter than us,” ad­mit­ted Sime­one.

“For the first 20 min­utes of the sec­ond-half we cre­ated chances, played in their half and con­trolled the game, but then came the penalty which took the wind out of our sails.”

Real were with­out six key play­ers in cap­tain Sergio Ramos, Pepe, Casemiro, Toni Kroos, Al­varo Mo­rata and Karim Ben­zema, but im­pres­sively con­trolled the first 45 min­utes.

Only an in­cred­i­ble save by Oblak pre­vented Ron­aldo open­ing the scor­ing with a tow­er­ing header on 12 min­utes that the Slove­nian some­how clawed away low to his left.

Oblak made another smart save to deny Luka Mo­dric mo­ments later, but he was help­less for the opener as Ron­aldo’s free­kick was de­flected be­hind him via the Atletico wall.

It took Atletico un­til the start of the sec­ond pe­riod to get to grips with the Euro­pean cham­pi­ons, but came out a dif­fer­ent side af­ter the break.

Yan­nick Car­rasco curled inches wide from the edge of the area be­fore An­toine Griez­mann blasted a shot across goal with no Atletico player wait­ing to knock to the ball into an un­guarded net.

How­ever, any hopes of an Atletico fight­back were punc­tured when Ste­fan Savic up­ended Ron­aldo in­side the area and the three-time World Player of the Year dis­patched the re­sult­ing spot­kick.

And with Atletico stretched at the back, a bril­liant run and low cross from Bale on the counter-at­tack teed up Ron­aldo to prod home at the far post.

At the Camp Nou, Barca were held score­less for the first time in La Liga since Malaga’s visit in 2014 with­out the ill Messi and sus­pended Suarez.

“They are two of our most de­ci­sive play­ers. They make the dif­fer­ence in the most im­por­tant part of the pitch, but that can’t serve as an ex­cuse,” said Barca’s cap­tain for the day Sergio Bus­quets.

With­out his usual two strike part­ners, the fo­cus was on Ney­mar to break down the mass ranks of Malaga de­fence.

The Brazil­ian fired into the side-net­ting in­side the first 10 min­utes, but Barca’s bright start quickly fiz­zled out.

In­deed, Juan Car­los had the best chance of the game for Malaga just be­fore the hour mark when he rounded Barca ‘keeper Mar­cAn­dre ter Ste­gen but fired into the sidenet­ting with the goal gap­ing.

Malaga had to see out of the fi­nal 21 min­utes with 10 men when Real Madrid loa­nee Diego Llorente cyn­i­cally chopped down Ney­mar and was shown a straight red card.

Yet, even with a man ad­van­tage, Barca badly missed the cre­ativ­ity of Messi and in­jured cap­tain An­dres Ini­esta as they re­sorted to launch­ing cross balls into Ger­ard Pique, who moved for­ward from cen­tral de­fence to act as an emer­gency for­ward.

Barca’s best chance came deep into stop­page time when Car­los Ka­meni some­how clawed Ney­mar’s header from point-blank range to safety be­fore Car­los was also dis­missed.

Sevilla moved up to third as they pro­duced a stun­ning fight­back from 2-0 down to win 3-2 at De­portivo la Coruna. – AFP

– REUTERSPIX

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