Cristiano Ronaldo struck a fine hat-trick to ease some of the gloom hanging over Real Madrid as they progressed through to the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey with a 5-2 aggregate victory over Celta Vigo on Wednesday.
Trailing 2-1 from the first leg last month, Madrid took the lead in the tie with a first-half brace from Ronaldo. Celta were able to exert some pressure in the second half, especially when Sergio Ramos was sent off for a second yellow card. But Ronaldo’s third and a goal from Sami Khedira late on ensured Real Madrid’s progress to a meeting with Valencia after a 4-0 victory at the Bernabeu.
Madrid boss Jose Mourinho elected to start with Iker Casillas in goal in place of Antonio Adan, who had controversially been picked ahead of the club captain in the past two matches. With that situation at least temporarily put to one side, Madrid were given the perfect start as they looked to overturn their first-leg deficit as Ronaldo produced a stunning strike less than three minutes in.
Just two days after again finishing second in the FIFA Balllon d’Or voting, the Portuguese forward gave a reminder of his incredible quality. Receiving a throw in on the left, Ronaldo took a touch inside toward the corner of the box and then unleashed a typically wicked strike filled with movement that swerved away from a befuddled Sergio Alvarez and tore into the far side of the net.
Madrid’s miserable past few weeks had also been added to by Luka Modric bring voted the worst signing of the season by Marca. The Croatian, playing in a deeper midfield role showed the ability that persuaded Madrid to pay £33 million for his services with a stunning pass to Ronaldo for the second goal in the 24th minute. Clear on goal from Modric’s pass, Ronaldo elected to hit a first-time volley and, while he didn’t strike it as cleanly as his first goal, the shot was still good enough to beat Alvarez.
Things were starting to get tense for the home side as Ramos was sent off and Casillas was forced into a fine save from Celta Vigo’s Michael Krohn Delhi.
As the visitors pushed forward in search of a goal to take the match into extra time, Madrid struck a decisive third with three minutes to go with a classic counter attack. Substitute Gonzalo Higuain fed the ball through to Ronaldo who was utterly clinical in firing an unstoppable low drive with his left foot into the far corner.
And the icing was put on the cake with just over a minute left on the clock. Khedira played a simple one-two with Ronaldo to get clear into the box and was able to send a scuffed shot past Alvarez.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.