Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick to power Real Madrid to a 5-1 home win over RC Deportivo de La Coruna on Sunday, as the defending champions strung together back-to-back La Liga victories for the first time this season.
Madrid will head into next weekend’s Clasico at the Camp Nou eight points behind leaders Barcelona, but at least Jose Mourinho’s side are showing strong signs they have recovered their dominating form from the last campaign.
Deportivo opened the scoring through Ivan “Riki” Sanchez-Rico 16 minutes in, but Ronaldo equalized from the penalty spot in the 23rd and netted again just before halftime after Angel di Maria had extended the lead.
Pepe added a headed goal in the 66th minute, before Ronaldo capped the victory with a spot-kick in the 83rd.
“The most important thing about my three goals is that they helped the team to win,” Ronaldo said.
“We know it will be tough against Barcelona, we are playing away from home, but we have to be focused and confident that we can play a good game, and get the victory,” the Portuguese said.
Ronaldo’s 17th career hat-trick lifted him even with Barecelona’s Lionel Messi with six goals each through six rounds. Both trail Atletico Madrid striker Radamel Falcao by one goal.
Also on Sunday, Atletico won 1-0 at winless RCD Espanyol thanks to Raul Garcia’s header to rise into second place, two points behind Barcelona.
Real Valladolid thrashed visiting Rayo Vallecano de Madrid 6-1 with doubles by Oscar Gonzalez and Manucho, while CA Osasuna beat Levante UD 4-0 and Granada edged out RC Celta de Vigo 2-1 for both teams’ first wins of the season.
Until now, Madrid had been unable to reproduce the same attacking verve that had led them to convincing victories over Manchester City in the UEFA Champions League and Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup, but after shaking off Deportivo’s early goal, they quickly took care of business at the Santiago Bernabeu on a night they could ill afford another slipup.
“We started without a lot of energy, but we woke up after the 1-0,” Ronaldo said. “It was an important win because we knew we couldn’t drop any more points.”
Mourinho rested regular starters Xabi Alonso and Alvaro Arbeloa, with Madrid set to visit Ajax in the UEFA Champions League tomorrow, shifting Sergio Ramos over to take Arbeloa’s place on the right side of the defense.
The Portuguese manager also loaded his attack with creative midfielders Mesut Oezil and Luka Modric, playing together for the first time.
Early on, Madrid showed some of the same uninspired play that has dogged them since the beginning of the domestic campaign and Deportivo had little trouble fending off their timid early incursions, before striking first.
Riki picked up a short pass, deftly dribbled by Raphael Varane, and slipped a shot past onrushing goalkeeper Iker Casillas.
A foul by Deportivo defender Manuel Pablo Garcia on Di Maria just inside the penalty area gave Madrid the chance to draw even and Ronaldo coolly slotted the spot-kick into the right corner.
With the score even Madrid pressed forward, with Di Maria tormenting the visitors’ left flank. Modric soon slipped a perfect pass between three opponents for the Argentina forward to score in the 39th minute, heading in his own rebound after goalkeeper Daniel Aranzubia deflected his initial shot off the post.
“The key was to increase our pressure so we could score more goals,” Ronaldo said.
Ronaldo made it 3-1 five minutes later when Aranzubia blocked Ramos’ strike, only for the ball to sail behind him and fall to Ronaldo, who easily headed it into the net.
Kaka, who is trying to work his way back into Mourinho’s good graces after failing to secure a transfer this summer, made a rare appearance at the start of the second half for Oezil. Alonso soon joined him, replacing Modric.
The former Liverpool player teed up Pepe’s goal with a curling free-kick that the defender was left unmarked to turn by the helpless Aranzubia.
Ronaldo got his treble with another spot-kick after Evaldo used his arm to block Kaka’s pass in the area.
“I knew this result was a possibility, but I would have liked my team to have shown more courage,” said coach Jose Oltra, whose promoted Deportivo recorded their second loss of the season.