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Real Madrid 3-0 Atlético Madrid: Cristiano Ronaldo scores hat-trick in Champions League semi-final at the Bernabéu

Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo ran rampant over Atlético Madrid at the Santiago Bernabéu stadium scoring three goals in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final.

Ronaldo had taken his tally of European goals to 100 in the quarter-final win over Bayern Munich, which included a second-leg treble, and was once more the man for the big occasion to put the holders within touching distance of the final again.

The Portugal forward headed Real in front on 10 minutes, although he appeared to have been offside in the initial build-up.

There was, though, no controversy about Ronaldo's second goal with 17 minutes left as he lashed the ball in from the edge of the Atletico penalty area.

Ronaldo completed his hat-trick for the second successive Champions League fixture when he swept in Lucas Vazquez's cut-back on 86 minutes.

Atletico, beaten in last season's final by Real, rarely threatened and now have it all to do at the Vicente Calderon next Wednesday night.

The two city rivals were meeting in Europe's elite competition for a fourth successive year, with Real having also won the 2014 final.

Home fans at the Bernabeu unfurled a giant banner before kick-off which showed the venues off all of Los Blancos' record 11 victories in the competition, which on this display could yet have Cardiff 2017 added to the list.

Atletico coach Diego Simeone had warned of a strong start from Real, and that is exactly what his team faced.

Right-back Dani Carvajal darted into the penalty area and drove in a low shot which goalkeeper Jan Oblak palmed onto Real forward Karim Benzema, who could only prod the ball wide.

It was, though, only a matter of time before Real took the lead. A cross from Sergio Ramos was nodded out only as far as Casemiro, who swung the ball in from the right towards the back post where Ronaldo powered a bullet header past Oblak.

The goal was perhaps fortunate to have stood as Ronaldo appeared a yard offside when Ramos had first played the ball in.

With the Bernabeu now in full voice, Real continued their offensive. On 16 minutes, Oblak pulled off a fine save as Raphael Varane looked to guide a corner from Toni Kroos into the bottom corner.

At the other end, Atletico finally came to life when Saul Niguez put Kevin Gameiro clear to run behind the Real defence, but goalkeeper Keylor Navas was out quickly to make a well-timed save.

Real were forced into a change at the start of the second half when Carvajal was replaced by Nacho, the defender having appeared to pick up a hamstring injury just before the interval.

The opening exchanges following the break lacked tempo as Atletico remained patient as they sought a way back into the tie.

Simeone then looked to inject some fresh impetus into his side on 55 minutes when Gameiro and Saul were replaced by Fernando Torres and Nicolas Gaitan.

If there was some debate about Ronaldo's opening goal, there was none about the 32-year-old's second on 73 minutes.

Benzema held the ball up from Diego Godin at the edge of the Atletico penalty area before laying it off towards Ronaldo. Filipe Luis slipped as he tried to make a clearance, which saw Ronaldo latch onto the lose ball before firing it past Oblak.

Atletico were cut open again with four minutes left when Vazquez charged to the goalline and pulled the ball back to the penalty spot, where Casemiro stepped over it for Ronaldo to knock into the net and take the adulation of the Bernabeu once more.

Match preview

Euro derby is simply too close to call, insists Zinedine Zidane

By Robert Jones

Zinedine Zidane does not think Real Madrid are favourites in their Champions League semi-final against Atletico Madrid at Santiago Bernabéu, despite his side holding the upper hand in recent meetings with their city rivals.

Tonight's first leg sees the two teams meet in the competition for the fourth successive year.

Real have won on all three previous occasions, including in two finals - in 2014 and 2016 - as well as a quarter-final in between.

"We're not favourites. It's 50-50, as it always is in the knockout stages," said Zidane yesterday.

"We know each other very well. The rivalry with Atletico hasn't changed since I was a player. It's a derby in the capital. It's intense, but the rivalry remains the same.

"We need to do everything well. If we do, then we'll see. We have to prove we are good enough.

"We will do everything in our power to win and we can't think about the return leg yet.

"To make it through to the semi-finals means you have done a very good job.

"We hope to go another step further.

"Atletico Madrid in the last four or five years have been very good, they get better every year and they are a tough test. We find them tough rivals.

"Atletico never give in, they keep fighting and they know what their strengths are. They are very good at getting the best out of their side.

"But let's see, we have got plenty of strengths too and we want to focus on our game plan.

"We know how they play, their strengths and weaknesses - and they know ours. We cannot invent anything new.

"We are looking forward to the tie, that is for sure and, whatever we do, we have to play to our full potential."

Zidane has been boosted by the news that Raphael Varane is fit after a hamstring injury. However, fellow centre-half Pepe is not available.

Zidane gave little away about his team selection, refusing to be drawn on whether the likes of Isco or James Rodriguez would replace the injured Gareth Bale.

Atletico look like they will have defensive problems at the Bernabeu, with Jose Gimenez and Juanfran likely to miss out.

With Sime Vrsaljko already out, centre-half Gimenez was filling in at right-back for Juanfran against Las Palmas on Saturday when he was injured.

Without any right-back available, Diego Simeone could play Stefan Savic in the position and bring youngster Lucas Hernandez into the middle, although it is unlikely he would break up the Savic-Diego Godin partnership for such a big game.

Simeone said: "I see a match in which they make a strong start.

"They will try to hurt us in the first minutes with the intensity of their players.

"We will have to take the match to where we feel more comfortable.

"Two very big teams are going to play each other," added Simeone.

"We will put together a team that competes with the heart of any fan of Atletico Madrid," he said.

Belfast Telegraph


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