Liga - Ronaldo stars as Real crush Malaga
A first-half hat-trick from Cristiano Ronaldo helped Real Madrid to an easy 4-0 La Liga win over Malaga at Estadio La Rosaleda.
The title hopefuls opened the scoring on 11 minutes through Gonzalo Higuain’s ninth Liga goal of the season before Ronaldo – criticised for his recent form – gobbled up three goals in 15 minutes to put the visitors 4-0 up at the break.
Malaga were more competitive in the second period but could not pull a goal back, with Real comfortably closing out a win that keeps them hot on Barcelona’s heels.
Coming off the back of a confidence-sapping 3-0 defeat at Liga surprise package Levante, former Real boss Manuel Pellegrini had a job to motivate his charges against the free-scoring Merengues.
He was not helped by the referee’s decision to ignore a penalty appeal when Joaquin appeared to be tripped by Sami Khedira, although Ronaldo had just been denied in a similar incident involving Jeremy Toulalan at the other end.
Real did not have long to wait before opening the scoring as a clever diagonal run by Higuain allowed him to spring a trap rendered useless by Ronaldo and Kaka coming back from offside positions before rounding stand-in keeper Ruben and sliding home the finish from an acute angle.
Angel Di Maria’s pass created that goal and he was involved again when Ronaldo doubled the lead 12 minutes later, drilling in a low finish after the Argentine’s excellent cross and celebrating with a bizarre hip-thrusting celebration to the distaste of the home supporters.
Real’s third goal five minutes later was mostly Ronaldo’s work as he weaved in and out of the hapless home defenders on the edge of the box before finding space to rifle home his second of the night.
That was followed by an audacious third from the Portuguese forward as he flicked the ball past Ruben after Sergio Ramos headed Di Maria’s corner across the face of goal.
The scoreline was not flattering to Real, who had chances to extend their lead before the break as Ronaldo put a free-kick wide; Malaga, meanwhile, belatedly creaked into action as Santiago Cazorla hit the side netting and Toulalan was denied by a smart stop from Iker Casillas.
With the match already won, Madrid sat back for the second half as Malaga tried to restore some pride.
They were unfortunate not to score too, a hatful of missed chances – from Cazorla twice, Eliseu and Salomon Rondon – meaning it was somehow still 4-0 heading into the final quarter.
Madrid did occasionally threaten on the counter as Higuain mistakenly shot wide when he had Ronaldo and Kaka free, but Malaga were piling it on – although to no avail in the end.
When it became apparent that there would be no miraculous fightback, Malaga lost interest and the latter stages drifted into a training-ground passing drill, although substitute Seba Fernandez rattled the woodwork with a savage half-volley.
Ronaldo went close to a fourth towards the end, his free-kick batted away by Ruben, while Casillas called into action in the dying seconds as he saved in quick succession from Diego Buonanotte and Fernandez.
No injury time was played as Malaga were put out of their misery, the Costa del Sol side sitting in sixth for now but set to drop a place or two after Sunday’s matches.