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UCL: Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick gives Real Madrid edge over Atletico Madrid 

Another big game, another treble for the goalscoring machine from Madeira!

Prithviraj Dev | New Delhi |

Cristiano Ronaldo fired yet another hat-trick to give holders Real Madrid a massive advantage after the first leg of their UEFA Champions League semifinal against Atletico Madrid, with the Blancos running out 3-0 winners at the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday night.

The fourth Madrid Derby had piqued the interest of many from the footballing fraternity, and after Ronaldo scored his 101st European goal in the 10th minute, the hosts were largely untroubled for the majority of the 90 minutes.

In a tie which was touted to be a battle between Griezmann and Ronaldo, the Portuguese proved he is still miles ahead of the younger lot. Griezmann cut an isolated figure on the night, deprived of quality ammunition whereas Ronaldo thrived on the excellent support his teammates provided.

Zinedine Zidane chose to start Raphael Varane in defence alongside Sergio Ramos and picked Isco on the right side to give Ronaldo and Karim Benzema company in attack, a move which raised  a few eyebrows, considering Marco Asensio’s great form in the past few weeks.

Zidane’s opposite number, Diego Simeone, chose to start with a narrow 4-4-2, picking Kevin Gameiro to start alongside talisman Antoine Griezmann up top, with Lucas Hernandez starting at right-back after regulars Juanfran and Jose Gimenez had been ruled out with injuries.

Real raced into a blistering start, taking the lead via Ronaldo of course, the man who has been their top-scorer in all competitions for every year since he made the move to the Bernabeu in 2009.

Sergio Ramos’ cross had initially been cleared to Casemiro and as the Brazilian sent in a volleyed cross back across the box, Ronaldo rose highest to give the hosts a vital breakthrough.

While Simeone’s men grew into the game, they never had more than half-chances and Keylor Navas was largely untested for the majority of the first half. He made just one save of note, coming off his line in the 17th minute to deny Gamerio from rounding him and equalising.

Madrid continued to dominate the tie, with Varane coming close to doubling their lead with an impressive header only for Jan Oblak to make a fine save and keep the Rojiblancos in the tie.

Zidane would have been happy with his side’s slender lead at half-time with the only blot being Dani Carvajal’s injury seconds before half-time. Nacho came on to replace him in the second half and did a fine job deputising at a position which does not come naturally to him.

In fact, one could say Zidane’s substitutions proved to be decisive while Simeone’s largely were uninspiring. Fernando Torres took to the pitch but was as ineffectual as the man he replaced, Gameiro, and neither fellow substitutes Angel Correa or Nicolas Gaitan could say they impacted the game in a positive manner for Atletico’s point of view.

The second period began on a tactical note with both teams cancelling each other out but Madrid always looked dangerous with the ball and deservedly doubled their lead after some good work from Benzema on the edge of the Atleti box. The French striker, on the fringes of the game for large parts, held up a low cross from the right before laying it off for Ronaldo. Felipe Luis attempted to intercept but his feeble attempt just ricochetted off Ronaldo before bouncing in the air inviting a volley from the Portuguese. And the 32-year-old duly obliged with a powerful shot which left Oblak with no chance.

Ronaldo’s hat-trick was confirmed 13 minutes later when substitute Lucas Vazquez brilliantly teed him up for a simple tap-in to put Madrid within touching distance of reaching their second consecutive final.  

The return leg at the Vicente Calderon is next week and Simeone knows his side face an onerous task if they are to overturn the 3-0 deficit.