Champions League: Cristiano Ronaldo’s Hat Trick Lifts Real Madrid

MADRID — Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat trick to lead host Real Madrid to a commanding 3-0 win over Atlético Madrid on Tuesday in the first leg of their Champions League semifinal.

Ronaldo scored on a header in the 10th minute, on a strike into the top corner in the 73rd, and on a close-range shot in the 86th to give Real Madrid, the defending champions, a comfortable lead headed into next week’s second leg at Atlético’s Vicente Calderón Stadium.

Monaco hosts Juventus in the first leg of the other semifinal on Wednesday.

Real Madrid, which is looking to reach its third final in four seasons, was in control from the start at Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. Ronaldo had scored five goals in the two legs of the quarterfinals against Bayern Munich, including a hat trick in the second leg at Bernabéu.

He opened the scoring on Tuesday after Atlético’s defense failed to fully clear a cross. Real Madrid midfielder Casemiro sent the ball back in with a bouncing shot, and Ronaldo got ahead of defender Stefan Savic to knock it past Atlético goalkeeper Jan Oblak.

Real Madrid added to its lead after Atlético defender Filipe Luís lost the ball to Ronaldo, who entered the penalty area and fired a shot past Oblak into the upper corner of the net.

Ronaldo scored his 10th Champions League goal of the season with a low shot from inside the penalty area after a pass from Lucas Vázquez. Ronaldo now has 103 goals in the Champions League, not counting one he scored in the qualifiers, which is three more than Atlético has scored since 1992, when the competition’s new format was introduced.

Real Madrid controlled possessions and caused problems for Atlético’s defense with set pieces taken by midfielder Toni Kroos. Real Madrid had 11 attempts against one for Atlético in the first half. Atlético improved in the second half, keeping Real Madrid from threatening as much, but it was not able to create many scoring opportunities.

“We’re going to try to do something practically impossible next week,” Atlético Coach Diego Simeone said. “We’re Atlético Madrid, and maybe, just maybe, we can do it.”

Atlético’s best chance of the match came in the 17th minute, when forward Kévin Gameiro received the ball inside the penalty area but was not able to get it past Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas in a one-on-one situation.

The crosstown rivals are meeting for the fourth consecutive time in the Champions League, the top European club competition. Real Madrid defeated Atlético in the final last season and in 2014, and in the quarterfinals in 2015.

Real Madrid, which won its record 11th title last year, is trying to become the first team to win back-to-back Champions League titles since the competition’s new format began. No team has even reached the final as the defending champion since Manchester United in 2009.

Atlético, the third major power in Spanish soccer behind Real Madrid and Barcelona, is trying to win its first title and avenge the heartbreaking losses to Real Madrid in a penalty shootout last year and after extra time in 2014. Atlético also lost the final in 1974, to Bayern Munich.

Tuesday’s loss at Bernabéu was the first for Atlético in 16 away games.

Cristiano Ronaldo, center, with his Real Madrid teammates after scoring the first of his three goals on Tuesday. Credit Chema Moya/European Pressphoto Agency

Cristiano Ronaldo scored another Champions League hat-trick as Real Madrid thrashed Atletico Madrid in the semi-final first leg to close in on a third final in four years.

Real were utterly dominant throughout against their city rivals at the Bernabeu and led after 10 minutes when Ronaldo headed home Casemiro's cross.

It looked as if the hosts might fail to fully capitalise on their superiority - until Ronaldo let the ball bounce and smashed an unstoppable shot from 16 yards past Atletico keeper Jan Oblak, who had made several saves to keep his side in the tie.

And the Portugal forward ensured all the headlines would be his with a second consecutive Champions League hat-trick, having scored five goals in the quarter-final against Bayern Munich. It was his easiest goal of the night, as he controlled Lucas Vazquez's cross in plenty of space before firing home.

Atletico only had one shot on target and will need to pull off one of the Champions League's all-time special performances to stop double-chasing Real from ending their European dreams for the fourth straight season.

Ronaldo does it again

Ronaldo, the top scorer in the history of the Champions League with 103 goals, loves the big occasion. And occasions do not come much bigger.

He has now scored one more goal - 52 - in the knockout stages than he has in the group stages. He has now scored eight goals in his past three games in the competition, and is up to 13 Champions League semi-final goals.

At the age of 32, Ronaldo has reinvented himself as a striker, rather than the marauding wide player we watched cutting in and shooting for most of his career.

He was not heavily involved for large periods of the game, with only 50 touches of the ball compared with 123 for midfielder Toni Kroos. And he only had five shots - scoring with all of his efforts on target, his only three touches in the Atletico box.

Ronaldo was in an offside position when Sergio Ramos' cross came in for the first goal, but the ball never reached him, instead coming out to Casemiro, who crossed for the Portuguese to head home.

His second came when Karim Benzema held off Diego Godin, and Filipe Luis' follow-up clearance bounced up to Ronaldo, who lashed home.

And he surely wrapped the tie up when he added a third in the 86th minute.

Can double-chasing Real make history?

No team has retained the Champions League since its rebranding in 1992, but Real - who were in the swashbuckling form we have seen for most of the season - are in a great position to do so.

Manager Zinedine Zidane, who led his side to last season's trophy with victory over Atletico in the final in his first six months in charge, is chasing a double - and their hopes of a first La Liga title since 2012 are in their hands.

Real - who have now scored in 59 consecutive games - had 17 shots against Atletico on Tuesday, with Benzema going close on several occasions, most notably with a bicycle kick that went just wide from Ronaldo's cross.

Raphael Varane almost scored with a header but was denied by a brilliant Oblak stop, while fellow defender Dani Carvajal, who went off injured at half-time, also forced a save from the Atletico keeper.

Such is the strength of Zidane's squad that Wales forward Gareth Bale, out with a calf injury, was not missed at all - with replacement Isco impressing.

And now, on the back of their first clean sheet in this year's tournament, they will surely fancy their chances against Juventus or Monaco in the Cardiff final on Saturday, 3 June.

Atletico's Real hex continues

Atletico have spent most of their history in the shadows of Real so it is of extreme irritation to them that one of their best periods has seen them regularly thwarted by their rivals.

This is the fourth year in a row the teams have met in the latter stages of the Champions League - with Real winning the 2014 and 2016 finals, and the 2015 quarter-final.

Atletico looked a shadow of the team Diego Simeone has turned into one of the most feared in the world. They only had 38% of the ball on Tuesday and, in the first half, misplaced 21.5% of their passes.

Atletico only managed four efforts on goal, with Diego Godin's easily saved header the only one on target.

Simeone, who led Atletico to the 2013 Spanish league title, now faces arguably the toughest test of his managerial career next week in the final European match at the Vicente Calderon before their move to a new stadium.

Man of the match - Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)

'We need to forget about this game'

Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone:

"We need to forget about this game.

"It seems impossible, but it is football and football has these unexpected things that make it marvellous.

"Until the last drip of hope is gone, we will give it everything we have."

Real boss Zinedine Zidane:

"Cristiano is a goalscorer. He is unique. All the players were brilliant.

"I am happy with what I am doing here and with the players, we played a great game. We can hurt any side with our weapons."

The stats you need to know - Ronaldo levels Messi hat-trick record
  • Ronaldo has equalled Barcelona forward Lionel Messi's total of seven Champions League hat-tricks.
  • His treble saw him become the first player to reach 50 goals in the knockout stages of the competition (52).
  • Ronaldo now has 13 semi-final goals in the Champions League (10 for Real Madrid, three for Manchester United) - the most by any player.
  • The Portugal international has also scored more Champions League goals (103) than opponents Atletico Madrid (100).
  • None of the previous five teams to lose a Champions League semi-final first leg by three or more goals have reached the final.
  • Atletico suffered their joint-worst Champions League defeat under Diego Simeone, having also lost by a three-goal margin (4-1) against Real Madrid in the 2014 final.
  • Real kept their first clean sheet in the competition since last year's semi-final against Manchester City (in both legs), ending a run of 11 successive games without one.

Cristiano Ronaldo: Real Madrid forward equal of Pele & George Best - Phil Neville

Phil Neville was at the Bernabeu for BBC Radio 5 live to witness Cristiano Ronaldo, his former Manchester United team-mate, scoring a hat-trick for Real Madrid in their 3-0 Champions League semi-final first-leg win over Atletico Madrid. Here are his thoughts:

I listened to my dad talk for 20 years about George Best and Pele and Cristiano Ronaldo is easily the equal of those.

What sets Ronaldo and Barcelona's Lionel Messi apart is that they deliver on the big occasion. We aren't talking about the two best players in the world, we are talking about the two best players who have ever lived. I think that's how good these two players are.

They take you to places no other player in the world can - and on Tuesday we saw a phenomenal performance from Ronaldo.

You are talking about someone who scores left foot, right foot and he is fantastic in the air. The way he can control the ball with both feet, the speed at which he runs - at 32 years of age he has just scored a hat-trick in a semi-final.

Ronaldo and Messi push each other on. Messi got all the plaudits after the recent match against Real Madrid, but Ronaldo has raised the bar again. Every time I see him I am amazed at his drive and determination to be the best in the world - and on Tuesday it was a 'wow' performance from him.

He has natural ability coupled with hard work. He is a tremendous example of where hard work can take you.

When we were at Manchester United he said he wanted to go on to be the best player in the world. He had the self-belief to get to the very top. I look at Chelsea's Eden Hazard sometimes and wonder if he has that.

United's Carrington training ground is maybe a mile, two miles around. Every single day he used to take a ball after training and run and do his tricks for a mile, two miles at a time. His drive and his ability to practise every single day is just phenomenal.

When he gets back to his house after the match against Atletico, he will have an ice bath, eat the right things at the right time to refuel his body, stretch - and he will have a masseur there. His professionalism, drive and desire are amazing.

I read an article before the second leg of the quarter-final against Bayern Munich and it was very scathing. It said he had lost speed and was not a team player - but he scored a hat-trick against Bayern. His form is not dwindling. If anything it looks like he is getting stronger because he is being managed well.

He has been rested well by Real boss Zinedine Zidane, and look at the sharpness and speed he still possesses. He is a physical specimen, a total athlete.

Real Madrid were far too good on the night - they could have been 3-0 up at half-time and the man of the moment got three goals on the biggest stage.

Atletico Madrid cannot play at the level Real did. They played like a team that did not believe they could go to the Bernabeu and win - they were cautious, poor with their passing and there was no belief in their body language.

I have watched Atletico boss Diego Simeone a lot this season and he looks like someone who is coming to an end at the club, that he cannot take the team any further. He has got a big decision to make at the end of the season and it would not surprise me if he left to go to the Premier League or to Inter Milan.

I talked before the match about what big occasions Champions League semi-finals are - but for Real it looked like a normal game of football.

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