Cristiano Ronaldo put in yet another stunning performance in the Champions League, scoring a hat-trick as Real Madrid overwhelmed Atletico Madrid 3-0 in the first leg of their semi-final at the Bernabeu.
Games between these two sides are usually tight, tense, scrappy affairs but the first half was thoroughly entertaining with Real Madrid on the front foot from the off and almost in front after just seven minutes.
Dani Carvajal was the instigator, his cross into the box only parried by Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak and falling to Karim Benzema who had no time to react, the ball bouncing off him and just about flying wide, somehow.
Madrid grab early goal
Two minutes later, however, and Madrid did find the back of the net, although yet again in the Champions League there was more than a little controversy surrounding los Blancos’ goal.
Cristiano Ronaldo appeared offside when Sergio Ramos swung a cross into the box, but Atletico failed to clear properly, the ball falling instead to Casemiro. The Brazilian then crossed again for a now onside Ronaldo who rose above Stefan Savic and headed home.
A crucial opening goal for Madrid but also Ronaldo’s 101st Champions League and his 50th goal in the Champions League knockout stages, the first player ever to reach the landmark.
Atletico were rocking and could have gone further behind as the hosts turned on the style. A Toni Kroos corner found Raphael Varane but somehow a full stretch Oblak managed to turn his header around the post.
Karim Benzema and Luka Modric also had sights of goal and after 25 minutes the statistics revealed Madrid’s dominance; the hosts had managed 10 shots on goal, while Atletico had yet to test Keylor Navas at the other end.
The visiting fans finally had something to cheer about on 17 minutes. Koke playing Kevin Gameiro through on goal, the Frenchman trying to take it around Navas but the goalkeeper did brilliantly to claw the ball away.
Still the chances kept coming, a Benzema overhead kick flew just wide while at the other end a clever free kick from Antoine Griezmann found Diego Godin on the slide and firing just over.
Madrid lose Carvajal to injury
Atletico slowly gained a foothold in the game as the half progressed but were still lacking accuracy in the final third, while Madrid were dealt a blow on the stroke of half-time as a distraught Carvajal pulled up and had to be replaced by Nacho.
The second half was a far tighter affair and Diego Simeone wasted little time changing his side bringing on Fernando Torres and Nicolas Gaitan after just 55 minutes.
Yet aside from a tame shot wide from Koke, Atletico still struggled to get anywhere near Navas’ goal and with an hour on the clock had still to muster a shot on target and unable to get the ball to Griezmann in the danger areas.
Madrid, meanwhile, were also less of a threat initially with Zinedine Zidane opting to change Isco shortly after he escaped a second yellow card after a late challenge on Koke, Marco Asensio replacing him.
Ronaldo at the double
However, with less than 20 minutes to go Ronaldo made the difference again. Benzema shrugging off Godin on the edge of the box, Filipe Luis unable to clear and the ball falling to the irrepressible Portuguese who absolutely smashed it past Oblak for his 34th goal of the season.
The goal visibly lifted Madrid who almost added a third, Asensio crossing for fellow substitute Lucas Vázquez but he fired wide with 10 minutes left to go.
However, there was still time for more drama late on, Vazquez doing superbly down the right before finding Ronaldo who calmly took a touch before stroking home to secure his hat-trick and, barring an absolute miracle, a place in the final for Madrid.
Real Madrid: Navas 7, Carvajal 7.5 (Nacho 7), Ramos 8, Varane 8, Marcelo 7, Kroos 9, Casemiro 7, Modrić 8.5, Isco 9 (Asensio 8), Benzema 7 (Vázquez 8), Ronaldo 10.
Unused subs: Casilla, James Rodríguez, Kovačić, Morata.
Atlético Madrid: Oblak 8, Lucas Hernández 6, Savić 5, Godin 5, Filipe Luis 5, Koke 6, Gabi 6, Saúl Ñíguez 5 (Gaitan 5), Carrasco 7 (Correa 5), Griezmann 6, Gameiro 5 (Torres 5).
Unused subs: Moyà, Tiago, Thomas, Alberto Rodríguez.
Referee: Martin Atkinson (England).
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