Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick as Real Madrid thrashed Atletico Madrid 3-0 in the first leg of their UCL Semi-Final tie. The tie is now firmly in Real’s control, as it would require an all-out battle from Atletico to overturn the deficit in the next leg.
Ronaldo only needed 10 minutes to score his 101st UCL goal. He pounced upon a mishit cross from Casemiro to head the ball past Jan Oblak. He also created a superb chance in the 29th minute, as he skilfully beat his marker and unleashed a perfect cross for Benzema who missed the target by inches with a sumptuous overhead kick. Atletico also created a couple of good chances. Navas came off his line to thwart Gameiro, and had he been a fraction of a second later he would’ve been sent off and a penalty would’ve been rewarded to Atletico for sure. Godin then missed a great opportunity to go level as he ballooned Griezmann’s free kick when he only had Navas to beat.
The second half was much less intense, as Real tried to maintain possession and tire out their opponents. Neither team created many chances, as Benzema and Gameiro missed for their respective teams. Ronaldo then bagged a second goal, as he took advantage of Atletico’s defence failing to clear the ball, and he smashed a thunderous half-volley into the top left corner of the net. He then rounded off a spectacular performance with his third of the night, as he directed home the ball with a simple finish, following some good build up by Lucas Vazquez. Simeone tried pumping up his team in order to get one back, and directed most of his players to get forward, but it was of no use as Real held on to frustrate their neighbours.
With this win Real are on course to reaching the UCL Final for the third team in the past four seasons. Atletico have an uphill task to overturn a seemingly impossible deficit in the next leg.
Here are the Major Talking Points from the Match
Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Man
Cristiano Ronaldo has shown no signs of slowing down, even at 32. He single-handedly dismantled the Atletico defence with a sumptuous hat-trick, and now has 8 UCL goals in the past 3 games. His second consecutive hat-trick in the competition has proved that even though he isn’t at his best anymore, he still is better than most and can shut-down teams like Atletico on his own. He has apparently put his somewhat poor season behind him, and has saved his best for the last. He has proved Zidane right, who had claimed that Ronaldo would be unstoppable in this most crucial period of the season.
Injuries to Blame for Atletico?
Atletico Madrid came into the match with a second tier defence as they were without two of their best defenders in Jose Gimenez and Juanfran, and it was pretty obvious that this was Real’s best opportunity to take advantage of a leaky Atletico defence. This certainly had an effect, as the defence was heavily on fault in all three goals. Savic was to blame for Ronaldo’s opener as he failed to deal with Casemiro’s mishit cross, while a confusion in their defence gave Ronaldo a chance he simply couldn’t resist as he fired home his second. His third could’ve been prevented too, but their inability to deal with Lucas and then Ronaldo was apparent yet again. Even Jorge Garcia and Sime Vrsalijko, who are both injured too, could’ve been better options at centre back than Savic. So, with that being said, does it mean that Atletico would be better equipped in the next leg? Their injured players have a week to recover, so let’s hope so.
Another Heartbreak for Atletico?
This will be the fourth consecutive season for Atletico to be dumped out of the Champions League by Real. They’ve lost twice in the Final, while they’ve been eliminated once in the Quarter-Final. They certainly would’ve hoped to avenge those three bitter defeats, but instead look to be on course for another loss. They’ve not had a great domestic season, and only the UCL could’ve spared it. But even that way looks gone now. They really hate their neighbours, don’t they?
Real Madrid- Best in the World?
Even when they haven’t seen their players have their best of individual seasons, Real Madrid have still managed an exceptional season both in Europe as well as domestically. Their much-famed BBC hasn’t been up to the mark this season. Still, they haven’t shown any signs of slowing down. They could retain the UCL title and embed themselves in football history as one of the best teams ever. They have the best left back and centre back, two of the best midfielders and one of the best attacking trios, including the best player in the world, so the team surely would be the best as well, right? They now just need a couple of additions- An Eden Hazard- type attacker and a replacement for Modric and Navas, and they’ll be simply unstoppable for the foreseeable future.
Could Atletico Be Back Again at This Level?
It is a well-known fact that Atletico are shifting to a new stadium next season. It is even better known that the process isn’t easy, as it increases the club’s financial burden and the club requires a fairly long time to settle in the new home (See: Arsenal). And with your top players like Griezmann, Oblak and Carrasco being targeted by European Giants, the future doesn’t look good. Even the boss Diego Simeone is being linked with a move to Inter Milan. Potentially losing your best players and manager during a period of transition spells bad omen, doesn’t it? Well, if Atletico do lose this tie, it is fairly possible that we won’t see them again at this big stage for the next 2-3 years. Enjoy them while you still can, people.