Madrid, May 3 (IANS) Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick as Real Madrid took a huge stride towards qualifying for their second Champions League final in two years as they defeated city rivals Atletico Madrid 3-0 in the first leg of their semi-final at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.
Although the second leg still has to be played in Atletico’s Vicente Calderon Stadium next week, it is hard to imagine them coming back from this defeat, much less after seeing how they only created one significant chance in 90 difficult minutes during Tuesday night’s match, reports Xinhua news agency.
As expected, Isco took Gareth Bale’s place in the Real Madrid staring XI and gave them extra depth and mobility in midfield, while left footed central defender, Lucas Hernandez was given the difficult job of playing at right back for Atletico.
Real Madrid started the stronger of the two sides and had Atletico on the back foot in the first half. Karim Benzema almost scrambled the ball home after just six minutes, before Cristiano Ronaldo headed Real ahead after 9 minutes.
The striker headed home a Dani Carvajal cross, although replays showed he had been clearly offside in the buildup to the goal.
Atletico were struggling as Real pressured them high up the field and Jan Oblak had to respond well to keep out a Rafael Varene header and to deny Isco.
A rare Atletico break saw Keylor Navas react well to deny Kevin Gameiro, who had latched onto a Koke through ball. But the majority of the chances were for the home side as both Luka Modric and Benzema went close to doubling their lead before halftime.
Nacho Fernandez replaced Dani Carvajal in the Madrid side after the break after the right back suffered a muscle injury in the last action of the first half.
Atletico saw more of the ball but failed to create chances against a solid Real defense. Diego Simeone reacted by bringing Nico Gaitan and Fernnado Torres on for Gameiro and Saul, while Zidane replaced Isco.
Chances were few and far between, but Ronaldo scored his second of the night after a pass from Karim Benzema with 17 minutes remaining. Felipe Luis tried to make a challenge, but the ball rebounded for Ronaldo, who gave Oblak no chance with a drilled shot from 18 yards.
Atletico knew they needed an away goal to give them a chance in the return leg, but their attempts to attack left them open on the break and Ronaldo was left with an easy chance to score the third after good work from Lucas Vazquez.