Cristiano Ronaldo made it an extraordinary seven goals in two matches by striking four times against Elche to help Real Madrid to a thumping 5-1 victory at the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday. Just three days after blasting a hat-trick in an 8-2 rout of Deportivo La Coruna, Ronaldo, helped by two penalties, continued his remarkable scoring run to take him onto 10 goals in just seven appearances this season. After a disappointing loss to Atletico Madrid, Carlo Ancelotti’s side have now scored an incredible 18 goals in three games since.
The night had not started nearly so promising for Madrid or Ronaldo, with the Portuguese harshly adjudged to have committed a foul in his own box to allow Edu Albacar to score from the spot. But by half-time the score had turned completely in Madrid’s favor. Gareth Bale and Ronaldo netted headers either side of Ronaldo striking home a penalty after another debatable decision. A much more sedate second half was then livened up 10 minutes from the end when Ronaldo picked himself off the floor and again making no mistake from 12 yards before his clever poked finish in injury time rounded out another memorable night for the Ballon d’Or winner.
Ancelotti made several changes to his lineup, with Keylor Navas making his debut in place of the much-scrutinized Iker Casillas. Asier Illarramendi also came into the side to add some more solidity to the midfield with Karim Benzema dropping out. It meant Ancelotti opted for what was ostensibly a 4-4-2, with Ronaldo and Bale starting up front, supported by James Rodriguez on the right. In the first half especially, though, the formation was largely an irrelevance as Madrid changed positions fluidly.
Such movement, with everyone looking to join in going forward, again meant that there were gaps defensively. In their limited forays forward there was plenty to encourage Elche, although their shock 15th minute lead owed as much to the first odd piece of refereeing of the evening. Ronaldo went to clear the ball on the volley and instead inadvertently cleared out Pedro Mosquera. Navas guessed the right way from the resulting penalty but still found one of his first tasks in a Madrid shirt to pick the ball out of the net as Albacar placed it expertly into the top corner.
But the whiff of a sensational upset did not hang around for long. Just five minutes later the hosts were level. There was some fine play involved from Madrid, with Rodriguez curling in a precise cross from the right and Bale meeting it with a good near-post header, but Elche goalkeeper Manu Herrera will have been bitterly disappointed to let it squirm through his grasp. There was little Herrera or Elche could do soon after as the referee evened up the strange penalty calls. This time Mosquera was the man punished when he cleared the ball out of the box and was penalized for perhaps the slightest of unintentional touches on Marcelo, who certainly made the most of it.
Ronaldo’s penalty was even more emphatic than Mosquera’s at the other end, and within four minutes he had his second of the evening. Marcelo was again involved, this time supplying a more conventional assist with a pinpoint cross from the left that allowed Ronaldo to flex his considerable neck muscles 12 yards out to send an unstoppable header into the bottom corner.
Although there was likely still too much last ditch defensive work from Madrid for Carlo Ancelotti’s liking, their scintillating attacking play could have yielded more goals before the half-time interval. One particularly eye-catching move involving Ronaldo and then Rodriguez saw Toni Kroos strike a first-time effort that Herrera did well to repel.
Likely prioritizing securing the three points over attempting to match the eight goals fired in at the weekend, Real Madrid were far more measured in their approach in the second half. Keeping a more consistent, solid shape, they prevented Elche from having a chance to get back into the contest, while Ronaldo had one of the few opportunities to extend Madrid’s lead with a shot that was blocked by Herrera at his near post.
But the contest came to life again late on, with Ronaldo taking the chance to add to his immense goal-scoring tally. Easily the most clear-cut penalty award of the night came when substitute Mario Pasalic, somewhat unwittingly, clipped one of Ronaldo’s ankles just inside the box. Having again confidently beat Herrera, he did so again with almost the last kick of the contest after feeding onto Bale’s through ball.