By Keeghann Sinanan, Goal.com
Cristiano Ronaldo warmed up for his eagerly anticipated clash against former club Manchester United with an inspirational performance to lead Real Madrid to a 4-1 victory over Sevilla at Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday.
The Portuguese international struck his 20th career Madrid hat trick and assisted another, as los Blancos got back to winning ways in la Liga, after their 1-0 reverse at Granada last weekend.
Ronaldo teed up Karim Benzema to bundle home his 50th Liga goal, before taking matters into his own hands with a stunning second from just outside the box before the half hour mark.
The 28-year-old continued his deadly display in the second half, plundering two more goals prior to his withdrawal to a thunderous ovation. Gonzalo Higuain and Hedwiges Maduro were both sent off before Manu Del Moral scored with two minutes remaining to provide a crumb of consolation for the visitors.
Diego Lopez began in goal against the club he left in January as Jose Mourinho rang the changes, fielding Kaka and Michael Essien in midfield, while Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain were given a rare run out together in the starting XI.
It was not the most enterprising start from either side yet Madrid managed to take the lead 18 minutes in. Ronaldo raced onto a long ball over the top to drill across the six yard box, and Fernando Navarro’s attempts to clear instead played the ball right into Benzema’s path a yard out.
Despite not appearing to be 100 percent fit, Ronaldo was the most decisive player on the pitch, and doubled the hosts’ advantage in stunning fashion. A step-over took Maduro out of the equation, and allowed the forward to arrow a fantastic effort inside the far post.
Sevilla finally made significant inroads into Madrid territory just after the half hour mark when Jesus Navas gained a step on Fabio Coentrao out wide, and centred for Jose Reyes, whose low effort was smothered confidently by Lopez.
But it was the best chance of a bland first half for the Andalusians, and Mourinho could have seen his side go out of sight had Beto’s awkward punch out fallen more kindly after Ronaldo’s free kick was too hot to handle.
And within seconds of the restart, the game was put to bed. A routine header backwards was misjudged horribly by Federico Fazio, allowing Ronaldo to steal in behind and slot home the home side’s third goal.
Ronaldo was not done, and in electrifying fashion, completed his hat-trick just before the hour mark. After a Reyes free kick was cleared, the Portuguese sprinted the entire length of the pitch, spread to Higuain, continued his run into the box, and knocked the return ball home from close range.
Ronaldo was withdrawn to a rapturous reception from the home fans, and he was soon unwillingly followed off the pitch by Higuain, who was shown his marching orders 66 minutes in after picking up his second yellow card for a late clip on Navarro.
Sevilla's numerical advantage lasted barely a quarter of an hour as Maduro was also shown his second booking for a lazy late challenge on Michael Essien just outside the area.
The visitors would pull one back late on with a tidy finish from Manu, but it mattered little as the damage had long been done by the rampaging Ronaldo.
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