Cristiano Ronaldo continued his impressive run by scoring a hat trick in Real Madrid’s 4-0 win over 10-man Shakhtar Donetsk in Group A of the Champions League on Tuesday.
After a five-goal performance in the Spanish league over the weekend, Ronaldo converted penalty kicks in the 55th and 63rd minutes, and then scored with a header in the 81st to take his Champions League tally to 80 goals. He leads Lionel Messi by three goals atop the leading scorer’s list in the competition.
”The team has helped me a lot,” Ronaldo said. ”My teammates have always had confidence in me.”
Karim Benzema opened the scoring after a goalkeeping blunder in the 30th following a difficult start for Madrid.
Shakhtar played a man down from 51st after defender Taras Stepanenko was sent off with a second yellow card for a bad sliding tackle on Sergio Ramos.
Madrid struggled early at the Santiago Bernabeu as Shakhtar tried to slow the pace to keep the home side from pressing forward.
Benzema finally broke the deadlock when goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov couldn’t hang on to a weak centering cross inside the area, giving the striker an easy shot into the open net.
The game opened up after Stepanenko was red carded, and Madrid quickly took advantage.
The first penalty came after Ronaldo’s shot appeared to explode off the hands and arms of Darijo Srna, and another hand ball, this time by Marcio Azevedo, prompted the second penalty just a few minutes later.
Both times Ronaldo fired firm shots into Pyatov’s right side, putting the game out of reach for Shakhtar.
The Portugal striker rounded off the scoring with a header, after the goalkeeper failed to hold a long-range shot by Marcelo.
”We didn’t play brilliantly but we still created many chances,” Benitez said. ”It was a difficult match to play. They have a lot of speed, many quality players and know how to take advantage of counterattacks.”
In Tuesday’s other Group A match, goals from Angel Di Maria and Edinson Cavani gave Paris Saint-Germain a 2-0 win over Malmo in France.
Ronaldo entered the match level with Messi as the Champions League’s leading scorers with 77 goals each. They broke Raul’s mark of 71 last season.
Messi will have a chance to match Ronaldo on Wednesday when Barcelona plays Roma in Italy.
It was not all good news for Madrid, which lost forward Gareth Bale in the 28th with an apparent muscle injury. He held his left calf before being attended by doctors and left the field limping. Defender Raphael Varane and Ramos later also had to be substituted because of injuries.
”We will have to wait a few days to see how these injuries progress,” Benitez said. ”Varane and Ramos are dealing with knocks, but Gareth already had a problem like this last year. We’ll see.”
Madrid won a record 10th title two seasons ago but was eliminated by Juventus in the semifinals last year and saw rival Barcelona win the title.
Now under the command of Benitez, Madrid was coming off a 5-0 rout of Real Betis and a 6-0 trouncing of Espanyol, when Ronaldo scored five times to become the team’s leading scorer in the Spanish league.