Cristiano Ronaldo’s record-breaking hat-trick helped Real Madrid equal another La Liga milestone with a 3-0 win over RC Celta de Vigo on Saturday.
His 23rd career hat-trick in the league gave him one more treble than greats Alfredo di Stefano and Telmo Zarra.
Ronaldo’s 21st, 22nd and 23rd goals through 14 rounds also ensured Madrid claimed their 18th consecutive victory across all competitions under coach Carlo Ancelotti, matching a mark for Spanish teams established by Barcelona in 2005-2006.
Real Madrid maintained the league lead, four points ahead of neighbors Atletico Madrid after the defending champions won 2-0 at Elche. Barcelona, trailing the leaders by five points, were due to host neighbors RCD Espanyol yesterday.
Ronaldo opened the scoring at the Santiago Bernabeu from the penalty spot in the 36th minute after he fell following light contact with a defender. He struck again in the 65th and 81st minutes.
“It’s a privilege to play with [Ronaldo],” Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos said. “You would have to invent words to describe him. He may be in his best moment.”
Ronaldo received a standing ovation when substituted late on, after taking his overall tally to 29 goals in 21 games this season.
He led La Liga with 31 goals last season. Lionel Messi holds the record for the most goals in a Liga campaign with 50 in 2011-2012.
Ronaldo is already well on pace to repeat not only as the league’s top scorer — Neymar is second with 11 — but he is also making a strong bid to defend his award as the world’s best player.
Real Madrid’s commanding win was marred only by losing James Rodriguez, who asked to be substituted and walked off the pitch in the 53rd minute.
Celta defender Gustavo Cabral suffered a more painful injury later and had to be carried off.
Ronaldo flirted with the goal in the 18th minute when he looped an acrobatic bicycle-kick onto the top of the net, before testing Sergio Alvarez with a strike from Marcelo’s pass.
Marcelo continued to torment Celta’s defense with his incursions from the left flank and his cross led to the opening goal when Ronaldo collapsed after defender Jonathan “Jonny” Castro touched his arm.
“It was a little unfair, we were in the game until then,” Jonny said. “I touched him, but he fell at the last moment.”
Celta’s Fabian Orellana finally threatened with a curling shot that missed the post a minute after halftime, but Ronaldo sealed the win by stabbing home the ball after Madrid hemmed Celta into their penalty area.
He got his third goal from another cross by Marcelo, expertly using his left boot to score.
Atletico churned out the win at Elche with defender Jose Gimenez firing in the first goal in the 17th minute to end a dizzying series of one-touch passes by Siqueira, Koke and Arda Turan from a set-piece.
Striker Mario Mandzukic finished Elche off in the 53rd minute by sprinting onto Gabi Fernandez’s lob and firing the ball inside the post.
Also on Saturday, promoted Cordoba’s 42-year wait for a top-tier victory finally ended when they won 1-0 at Athletic Bilbao, while Malaga won 1-0 at RC Deportivo de La Coruna to claim sixth place overnight.
Cordoba had not won in 13 league games this season after returning to the top flight for the first time since 1972, but Cordoba striker Nabil Ghilas pounced on Ander Iturraspe’s poor pass, leaped over Carlos Gurpegui’s sliding tackle and beat goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz for what proved to be the winner in the 23rd minute.
Malaga goalkeeper Carlos Kameni continued his superb season with several saves, including stopping Ivan Cavaleiro’s penalty.
Counterpart Fabricio Agosto, though, was caught off his line by Sergi Darder’s long-range strike to grab the visitors the win in the 23rd minute.
Cordoba rose into 18th place, with Deportivo next and Elche at the foot of the standings.
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