Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick and led Real Madrid to a 3-0 triumph over city rivals Atlectico Madrid and placed the present European champions far away from another Champions League final.
Atlectico were out witted at the Bernabeu, with Ronaldo once again being the hero of the day.
Diego Simeone’s men now face a tough challenge to remain in Europe’s elite competition.
Here’s five things we learned…
Ronaldo – a rare gem
Cristiano Ronaldo seems to have an unending source of talent. Though his productivity has diminished this season but, on the big occasion, the Portugese keeps delivering. No one would have though he would last this long in the game but he has proved to all and sundry he still has a lot in store.
His early header gave Real an edge as the game proceeded, and the home side went on to have the most possession and chances for the rest of the first-half. Then with seventy minutes into the game, at a point when Atlectico still had a chance of getting their name on the score-sheet, the Portuguese once again reared up. His third and final goal all but seals the deal for Real and leaves Atlectico in a position where they have to fight hard in the second leg. Once again, Real owe their victory to their golden child.
Atletico set for fresh heartbreak
This was the fifth time Real Madrid and Atlectico Madrid clashed in the European Cup, of which Real emerged winner of the previous four ties. While Atletico’s men have always fared better against their city rivals on the domestic ground in recent years, the Champions League has been an enigma to them. No team has managed to chase Simeone’s men away from Europe save their greatest rivals. It is no surprise then that Atletico are called el pupas – the Jinxed ones. Gabi, when asked before the game what would make this game stand out, said: “We hope the result will be.” But if the score-line is anything to go by, along with the amazing display that came with it, Atletico look to be set for a fresh heartbreak. Unable to get their name on the score sheet in an away game, the visitors go into the second-leg with a big challenge on their hand.
Real finally come together as a team
For most of the season, question have been asked whether Real are currently using their starting XI to their full capacity. Real have hardly proved themselves in Europe this season, but they hardly need to as their strength overrides their weakness. So it was against Bayern, Napoli before prior to that, and right through this new age of Champions League dominance for the tournament’s most successful club.
But the case was different this time around. From the beginning, Real looked the favorite to win the game. Rational, slick and assured; Zinedine Zidane’s men exuded confidence and had belief the game was theirs. They had the most possession, as expected, and took advantage of it well, keeping the visitor at bay, creating chances after chances. With Ronaldo leading the charge, they looked menacing in what was their best performance in Europe this campaign.
Atletico’s weakness capitalized on
Rio Ferdinand stated before the clash that Atletico’s inability to cross the ball could pose a threat to the visitors. This was exactly what happened in the game. Real had their best time down the flanks, with Marcelo proving to be a force for much of the game and created their best chances through these avenues.
Hernandez left out in the cold
Atlectico Madrid’s defense is currently suffering injury blow and the question on everybody’s mind was, how was Simeone was going to bridge the gap left by the absences of Jose Gimenez and Juanfran?
In the end – for all the exciting speculations that he would switch systems or drop one of Saul Niguez or Koke back to man-mark Ronaldo – he didn’t attempt to try and reinvent the wheel. The youngster Lucas Hernandez, a central defender, was parachuted in and shunted out wide. Was it the correct decision? Maybe not. The 21-year-old Hernandez found himself struggling against the likes of Ronaldo and Marcelo, who were exceptional in getting forward down the left flank, for the big part of the night.