Cristiano Ronaldo scored four goals in a brilliant performance to move past Telmo Zarra into second on the list of all-time La Liga goalscorers as Real Madrid thrashed Celta Vigo 7-1 on Saturday.
The forward netted three times in the space of 14 second-half minutes with a super long-range strike, a stunning free-kick and a simple finish, before scoring with a late header to move on to 252 goals in the Spanish top flight, with only Lionel Messi having scored more.
Pepe had given Madrid a first-half lead at the Santiago Bernabeu, while substitutes Jese Rodriguez and the returning Gareth Bale rounded off the scoring.
Iago Aspas netted for the visitors in between Ronaldo’s second and third goals in a rare show of resistance to the free-flowing hosts, who recorded a rampant victory.
The result provides huge relief to head coach Zinedine Zidane, who has now overseen two straight wins since facing criticism for the derby defeat to Atletico Madrid – a team that now sit just one point clear in second spot ahead of their game with Valencia on Sunday.
Madrid were boosted ahead of kick-off as Bale returned to the substitutes’ bench having been out since January with a calf injury, while Marcelo sat alongside him after missing the last two matches with a similar issue.
It was Celta who came closest to an early lead when Fabian Orellana sent in a cross from the right and Aspas rose to thump a header against the crossbar.
The former Liverpool striker then seemed destined to score from the rebound, but Keylor Navas produced a pivotal reaction save to deny him.
That prompted the hosts to respond, with Ruben Blanco impressively denying Isco after the midfielder had showed good composure to chest down Pepe’s cross and work an opening from six yards out.
Celta were forced to bring off an injured Pablo Hernandez and the pressure was growing, with Ronaldo denied a penalty after he felt Sergi Gomez had shoved him to the ground in the area.
Blanco then denied Madrid again with an excellent one-handed save to keep out a Casemiro header from Isco’s cross.
And, from the resulting corner, the breakthrough did arrive four minutes before half-time when Pepe powerfully headed home Isco’s delivery from 10 yards.
Zidane was smiling on 50 minutes when Ronaldo showed his class to make it two. Collecting possession from Sergio Ramos, the Portugal international turned and unleashed a powerful, dipping strike from 25 yards which was too good for Blanco.
Ronaldo played on after appearing to suffer an injury from a Hugo Mallo challenge and was presented with a free-kick opportunity on 58 minutes after Marcelo Diaz fouled Isco.
The 31-year-old stepped up and dipped a brilliant set-piece over the wall and into the top corner.
Blanco did well to keep out another free-kick from Ronaldo soon after, before Celta struck just after the hour mark. A huge long ball from Gomez completely caught out the home defence and Aspas confidently chipped over Navas.
But Ronaldo completed his hat-trick within two minutes of that goal, capping off a fine passing move with a simple close-range finish, as the influential Isco claimed the assist.
Bale and Marcelo both came on to make their returns in the closing stages and were on the pitch 14 minutes from time as Ronaldo headed in from Jese’s corner to move past Zarra’s mark, with the Bernabeu crowd lapping it up.
Jese then made it six within a minute after creating the opportunity himself with a purposeful run and accurate finish and Bale marked his return with a similar strike, running unchallenged before picking his spot as Madrid warmed up for their Champions League last-16 second leg with Roma on Tuesday in stunning style.
Key Opta stats:
– Celta have not conceded at least seven goals in a single La Liga game since 1959 (9-0 at San Mames).
– This is Real Madrid’s biggest La Liga win against Celta.
– Cristiano Ronaldo has scored nine goals in his last three meetings with Celta.
– The Portuguese scored his first free-kick goal of the season after trying 19 times. He was the player with the most free-kick attempts without a goal.
– This is the seventh time Ronaldo has scored at least four goals in a single game. He has now achieved the feat against Racing, Sevilla, Elche, Granada, Espanyol, Malmo and Celta.
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