Cristiano Ronaldo scored the 29th hat trick of his Real Madrid career Saturday to lift his side to a 3-2 away win over Sevilla and keep them in the hunt for the La Liga title. The win was Real Madrid’s first at Estadio Sanchez Pizjuan since 2011 and brought an end to a 34-match unbeaten streak at home for Sevilla.
Ronaldo’s three goals also saw him once again overtake Lionel Messi to become the leader in the race for this season’s Pichichi award for the most goals. It was a clutch performance in a crunch game from a player who’s borne the brunt of much of the criticism surrounding Carlo Ancelotti’s team this year.
Granted, the cards did fall in Real Madrid’s favor to some degree. After 23 minutes of deadlock, during which it truly seemed it could go either way, things turned in the visiting side’s favor. Sevilla midfielder, Grzegorz Krychowiak, rising into an aerial challenge with Sergio Ramos, crunched his face into the back of the Madrid defender’s head.
He crumpled to the pitch, blood gushing from what turned out to be a broken nose. The Polish international was taken to the sidelines for treatment. By the time he returned to the field, his nose packed with gauze, Ronaldo had struck twice within 98 seconds to give Real the lead.
While Ronaldo led the charge with his goals and his leadership, it was an impressive performance from Real Madrid overall. While he failed to find the back of the net, Chicharito had another good game filling in for the injured Karim Benzema. The Mexican’s hold-up play was excellent and his incisive runs helped open up space for his strike partner, Ronaldo. The oft-maligned Iker Casillas had an excellent game in goal, contributing with a number of vital saves to maintain Madrid’s lead. Gareth Bale came off the bench to chip in with a pitch-perfect cross to set up Ronaldo’s vital third goal.
Sevilla did keep things interesting for Ancelotti’s men, winning a penalty on the stroke of halftime to make it 2-1 and then scoring a second late in the match to make it 3-2. But despite a commendable effort, it was too little too late for Unai Emery’s team, who were left to rue the unfortunate injury to Krychowiak and wonder what might’ve been had they been able to keep 11 men on the pitch throughout the course of the 90 minutes.
But it was a vital win for Real Madrid and as Ancelotti said last week, the Spanish title race is likely to go down to wire this season. While they still maintain a narrow two-point lead, Barcelona face the difficult task of playing Atletico Madrid away in two weeks time. If Barça can win all their remaining matches, they’ll be crowned La Liga champions; but dropping any points at all could open the door to being overhauled by their rivals.
It all aligns to set up an enticing closing round of the La Liga season between the two teams who are also favorites to meet in Berlin next month for the Champions League final.