Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick helps Real Madrid to easy win over Sociedad
Real climbed to third but are 16 points behind LaLiga leaders Barcelona.
Cristiano Ronaldo hit a hat-trick as Real Madrid warmed up for their Champions League clash with Paris St Germain by convincingly beating Real Sociedad 5-2.
Zinedine Zidane’s LaLiga champions dominated from the first minute at the Bernabeu and were four goals up at the break courtesy of Lucas Vazquez’s opener, two goals from Ronaldo and a superb strike from Toni Kroos.
Sociedad twice pulled back to within three goals in the second half thanks to efforts from substitute Jon Bautista and former Real midfielder Asier Illarramendi.
However, Ronaldo’s third, which made it 5-1, staved off a comeback and ensured his team received a timely boost ahead of their tantalising European tie.
PSG visit the Spanish capital on Wednesday for the first leg of the last-16 clash between the two heavyweights.
With Real 16 points adrift of league leaders Barcelona and out of the Copa del Rey, the Champions League represents their only realistic chance of salvaging silverware from what has been a torrid season so far.
That did not stop coach Zidane naming a strong starting XI against Sociedad, backed up by Isco, Casemiro and Gareth Bale on the bench.
His players perhaps had a point to prove after their disastrous title defence suffered another setback last weekend when they conceded a late equaliser to draw 2-2 at Levante.
And they appeared keen to make amends as they made a blistering start to take the lead inside 47 seconds.
Ronaldo, who turned 33 on Monday, showed no signs of slowing down, scampering down the left wing and then delivering a pinpoint cross for Vazquez to head into the right corner.
After Karim Benzema had poked against a post, Ronaldo added his name to the scoresheet just before the half-hour mark when he clinically finished from 10 yards out following Marcelo’s centre from the left.
Passive Socieded appeared to have no answer to their superior hosts. Benzema missed another good opening and Ronaldo volleyed against the left upright before the result was put beyond doubt courtesy of a sublime goal from Kroos.
The Germany midfielder sprayed the ball to the right wing and was then waiting on the edge of the box to nonchalantly curl a first-time strike into the top-right corner from Vazquez’s cut back.
Real goalkeeper Keylor Navas was not being threatened at all as the shell-shocked visitors continued to stand off and a fourth goal inevitably arrived before the break, with Ronaldo rising highest to powerfully head home Luka Modric’s right-wing corner.
The away side eventually showed some attacking intent early in the second period and were unlucky not to reduce the deficit to three when forward Juanmi headed against the woodwork from a corner.
With the three points safe, Vazquez, Modric and Marco Asensio were each given rests, while Bale was brought on for the final 17 minutes.
The Wales forward had been on the pitch for barely a minute when Sociedad forward Bautista was allowed too much space to calmly slot a consolation past Navas at his near post.
Ronaldo then tapped home his third after Sociedad keeper Geronimo Rulli failed to deal with Bale’s relatively tame initial shot, but the visitors had the final say as Illarramendi hooked home seven minutes from time.