Af­ter hat trick, no one bet­ter than Ron­aldo at Madrid derby

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

For Cristiano Ron­aldo, there’s clearly some­thing spe­cial about play­ing Atletico Madrid.

Ron­aldo is used to per­form­ing well re­gard­less of the op­po­nent but the star for­ward of­ten finds another level against Real Madrid’s crosstown ri­val.

No one has done bet­ter than him in the Madrid derby, not even the great Al­fredo Di Ste­fano.

With his hat trick on Satur­day in the 3-0 win at the Vi­cente Calderon Sta­dium, Ron­aldo reached 18 goals to sur­pass the for­mer Madrid great as the derby’s top all-time goal scorer.

“To score three goals in a game like this is some­thing that only the great play­ers can do,” said for­mer Real Madrid for­ward Emilio Bu­tragueno, cur­rently a club di­rec­tor. “The great play­ers show what they can do in games of this mag­ni­tude. It’s a priv­i­lege to have a player like Ron­aldo play­ing for this club.”

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said Ron­aldo’s per­for­mance on Satur­day should “put an end to the de­bate” over best player of the year award.

“I never had any doubt in my mind,” Zidane said. “He has shown that he de­serves it all sea­son long.”

Ron­aldo’s per­for­mance was tough on Atletico, com­ing in the last Span­ish league derby at the Calderon be­fore the club moves into a new venue next sea­son.

A good re­sult at the emo­tion­ally charged game was a mat­ter of honor for Atletico play­ers and fans. Watch­ing Madrid run ram­pant at its ground was tough for the die-hard crowd that has packed the Calderon for the last 50 years.

Atletico had been do­ing well against Madrid re­cently, un­beaten in six league games, but sup­port­ers still re­mem­ber painful de­feats in Cham­pi­ons League fi­nals, when Ron­aldo played key roles. The 31-yearold for­ward scored Madrid’s fi­nal goal in ex­tra time in the 41 win in 2014, and con­verted the de­ci­sive penalty kick in the shootout in last sea­son’s fi­nal in Mi­lan.

Ron­aldo has scored against Atletico in three dif­fer­ent com­pe­ti­tions, with 11 goals com­ing in the Span­ish league, six in the Copa del Rey and one in the Cham­pi­ons League.

Di Ste­fano, who played for the club from 1953-64, scored 17 goals against Atletico.

It was Ron­aldo’s sec­ond hat trick at the Calderon, giv­ing him a to­tal of seven goals at the sta­dium that will be de­mol­ished af­ter Atletico moves out. The other hat trick came in his first sea­son with Madrid in 2012, and he also net­ted at the venue in 2014.

Ron­aldo scored Satur­day with a free kick that de­flected off the wall in the first half. He con­verted a penalty kick in the sec­ond af­ter be­ing fouled in the area and sealed the vic­tory with an easy close-range shot af­ter a pass by Gareth Bale.

The win at the Calderon left Madrid four points clear of Barcelona, and nine points in front of Atletico, sig­nif­i­cantly di­min­ish­ing the ri­val’s ti­tle chances af­ter only 12 matches.

Madrid hasn’t won the Span­ish league ti­tle since 2012.

Cristiano Ron­aldo cel­e­brates com­plet­ing his hat-trick against Atletico Madrid last Satur­day Photo: AP

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