Real Madrid rebounded from last week’s disappointing defeat to Granada and warmed up with Wednesday’s clash with Manchester United in style with a 4-0 victory over Sevilla at the Bernabeu on Saturday.
After he scored the only goal, at the wrong end, last time out, it was a much happier game for Ronaldo this time around as he struck the 20th hat-trick of his Madrid career. The Portuguese forward also had a hand in Karim Benzema’s early opener. After both sides had been reduced to 10 men with dismissals for two cautions for both Madrid’s Gonzalo Higuain and Sevilla’s Hedwiges Maduro Sevilla struck a late consolation though Manu.
The lack of discipline and some poor defending late on blighted an otherwise encouraging night for Madrid. But, while they are still 13 points behind Barcelona, with the Blaugrana to play on Sunday, Madrid again showed with much of this performance that they remain a formidable force when they’re on their game.
Perhaps with the first-leg of the Champions League last-16 tie against the Premier League champions in mind, Madrid manager Jose Mourinho elected to leave Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira on the bench. Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain got a rare start together, while Kaka and Luka Modric were also in the lineup.
Kaka was involved early too as he fizzed a good shot from the top right of the penalty area that Sevilla goalkeeper Beto did well to dive and turn away.
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Madrid’s superiority was clear, though, and it would be just 18 minutes before they took the lead. Higuain played a neat ball to Ronaldo down the left of the area and his low cross took a touch off the goalkeeper onto Fernando Navarro and the ball fell fortuitously to Benzema on the line, who couldn’t miss.
Just eight minutes later Madrid doubled their lead with a stunning strike. Ronaldo befuddled Maduro with his lightning footwork and stepped inside the Sevilla midfielder before unleashing an unstoppable shot with his left foot that soared across Beto and into the net.
Sevilla tried to mount a fight back before the break. Jesus Navas produced a rare successful burst down the right and cut the ball back for Juan Antonio Reyes, but his shot was comfortably saved by his former Sevilla teammate Diego Lopez.
What was already looking a daunting prospect for Sevilla became all-but insurmountable within a minute of the start of the second half. Federico Fazio criminally allowed a forward header to bounce across him on the edge of the area, allowing Ronaldo to nip in and waste no time in taking the ball inside the box and finishing low across Beto.
Just before the hour mark, Ronaldo had yet another treble. The man, who will face his former club for the first time on Wednesday, led a break from deep inside his own half to the edge of the opposition area before shifting it to the right for Higuain and then continuing his run and tapping home the Argentinean’s low cross from close range.
Some of the gloss was taken off an otherwise unanimously positive evening for Madrid when Higuain made a nonsensical late tackle on Navarro to earn a second yellow card and a frustrating suspension.
Despite their brief numerical advantage, Alvaro Negredo’s shot wide from a tight angle the best Sevilla could muster. The latter stages of the contest descended into a tetchy affair and with 10 minutes remaining Maduro joined Higuain back in the dressing rooms.
Mourinho will have some concerns too with the manner in which Madrid relinquished a clean sheet with three minutes remaining.
Raul Albiol was beaten far too easily on the edge of the box by Manu and then Sergio Ramos failed to cover himself in glory as the forward’s shot traveled through his legs and into the corner past Lopez.