Cristiano Ronaldo’s fifth La Liga hat-trick of the season gave Real Madrid a 3-1 victory over Sevilla to keep the pressure on leaders Barcelona.
Ronaldo, whose quick-fire double midway through the first half put Carlo Ancelotti’s side in command at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, capped the treble with a terrific header after being set up by substitute Gareth Bale in the 68th minute.
Carlos Bacca pulled one back from the penalty spot for Unai Emery’s side – who had earlier gone agonisingly close to taking the lead through Jose Antonio Reyes – after former Sevilla man Sergio Ramos had fouled Aleix Vidal in first-half stoppage time.
Sevilla, who face a Europa League semi-final clash with Fiorentina next week, did snatch a second through substitute Iborra, but despite a late onslaught, they were unable to prevent Real from securing a seventh consecutive league triumph.
With Barcelona having increased their lead at the top of La Liga to five points with an 8-0 demolition of Cordoba earlier on Saturday, Real got off to a positive start, with Sergio Rico pulling off a phenomenal save to prevent Ronaldo firing the visitors in front.
Sevilla, undefeated at home since a 4-1 loss to Barcelona in February 2014, were not to be outdone, however, with Iker Casillas, returning in place of Keylor Navas, having to be alert to deny Vidal.
Reyes almost nudged Sevilla in front soon after when Bacca, who scored twice last time out, played in a wonderful cross that the winger was just inches away from prodding in.
Ramos – deployed in midfield after returning from suspension – was involved in a clash of heads with Grzegorz Krychowiak soon after, with the Polish midfielder retreating to the sidelines for treatment.
And Real made the man advantage pay when, in the 36th minute, Ronaldo leapt to head home his 40th league goal of the campaign from Isco’s hanging cross.
The Portuguese was on hand to double the advantage one minute later, tapping home at the back post following Javier Hernandez’s flick-on.
However, Ramos’ rash tackle on Vidal on the stroke of half-time gave Sevilla a golden opportunity to get back in contention and Bacca duly obliged as he converted from the spot.
Ancelotti introduced Bale – returning from injury – in place of Hernandez shortly after the hour mark and the change paid immediate dividends as the Welshman crossed to the back post, where Ronaldo executed a sublime header back across goal to seal his hat-trick in splendid fashion.
Emery brought on Kevin Gameiro and Iborra with 12 minutes remaining, with the latter on hand to tuck away a second for the hosts after being set up by Vidal just two minutes after coming on to set up a frantic final 10 minutes.
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