Cristiano Ronaldo once again proved himself to be the man for the big occasion as his hat-trick gave holders Real Madrid a commanding 3-0 advantage in their Champions League semi-final against city rivals Atletico Madrid.
The four-time Ballon d’Or winner has seemingly saved his best for Europe’s premier competition this season, scoring five of Madrid’s six goals in their pulsating quarter-final triumph over Bayern Munich, and he headed the opener after 10 minutes at a raucous Santiago Bernabeu.
Madrid’s fans unveiled a huge banner celebrating the 2014 and 2016 final triumphs over their neighbours before kick-off and Ronaldo ensured the knife-edge tension of those extra-time and penalty shootout wins would be removed from this tie.
The contest fell into a familiarly fractious and cagey rhythm after the interval, but Madrid’s talisman intervened to render the last European match at the Vicente Calderon a formality.
Ronaldo rifled an unstoppable shot into the top corner in the 73rd minute and claimed the matchball four minutes from time, meaning a grim catalogue of misery in this European fixture continued for Diego Simeone’s side.
The first leg of the second semi-final between AS Monaco of France and Juventus FC of Italy holds tomorrow evening in Turin, Italy.
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