Cristiano Ronaldo hat trick vs. Atletico breaks more records, hogs headlines

Cristiano Ronaldo recorded his 42nd career hat-trick in style as Real Madrid took a commanding first-leg lead over Atletico Madrid.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s hat-trick puts Atletico Madrid in dire straits heading in to leg 2 at the Vicente Calderon.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s hat trick puts Atletico Madrid in dire straits heading into Leg 2 at the Vicente Calderon.
BT Sport highlight: Cristiano Ronaldo’s hat-trick puts Atletico Madrid in dire straits heading in to leg 2 at the Vicente Calderon.
With back-to-back UCL hat-tricks, the FC panel laud Ronaldo’s multi-faceted game, and rate him among the all-time greats.
Relive the top moments from Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.
Sergio Ramos believes that when Cristiano Ronaldo is in form, Real Madrid are one of the most feared sides in world football.

Cristiano Ronaldo once again dominated the headlines, and kept the statisticians extra busy, after his latest hat trick in Real Madrid’s 3-0 Champions League semifinal first-leg win against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday evening.

“Cristiano is the boss,” the AS front cover said. “The Portuguese’s hat trick, an Atletico side without a soul.”

“Sitting Bull — a colossal Cristiano knocks out Atletico with three goals,” the Marca cover said. “The soaring Portuguese has eight goals in his last three Champions League games. He now has 400 for Madrid. Los Blancos were much superior against an Atletico side who collapsed.”

Ronaldo himself also mentioned his having reached the 400-goal mark during his postmatch interview, although most statisticians — including ESPN’s Stats Information Group — have him still on 399 for the club. The difference being a goal against Real Sociedad back in 2011, which teammate Pepe generously accepted belonged to his fellow countryman to help out in a tight ‘pichichi‘ top-scorer race against Barcelona’s Lionel Messi that year.

There was no need to get bogged down there, as Ronaldo’s performance brought many other records:

– He is now the first player to reach 50 goals in the Champions League knockout stages (52) — meaning more than half of his goals in the competition have come when the going gets tougher after Christmas.

– His 13 semifinal goals (10 for Real Madrid, 3 for Manchester United) are the most by any player in the competition’s history — passing out fellow Bernabeu legend Alfredo Di Stefano.

– His 18 headed goals are four more than anyone else has managed in the UCL.

– In total Ronaldo has scored more Champions League goals (103) than Atletico (100) have netted over their entire history.

– In being the first player ever to score back-to-back trebles in the knockout rounds, Ronaldo also equalled Messi’s total of seven Champions League hat tricks.

– After catching up remarkably quickly he is now just one goal behind the Argentine in the race to be the competition’s top scorer this season, and will likely have two games still to play.

– The 32-year-old became the first player in European Cup history to score 10 or more goals in a campaign in six consecutive seasons. A fifth Ballon d’Or for 2017 — again moving level with Messi — already looks quite likely.

Former Madrid forward Emilio Butragueno, now the club’s director of institutional relations, said afterwards that Ronaldo had showed against Atletico, and in the previous round against Bayern Munich, that he could dominate the biggest occasions like nobody else.

“Cristiano is the best,” Butragueno said. “A player who can score five goals in two quarter-finals, and then three more today, with the importance of the game… it is a privilege for Madrid to have him, and for him to show again that he is the best.”

In El Pais, Manuel Jabois recalled that just a few weeks ago some had been doubting whether Ronaldo was past his best at this point, having gone 659 minutes without scoring in Europe, and being whistled by his own team’s fans at the Bernabeu.

“There is no player in the world who has laughed so much at his haters,” Jabois wrote. “Nobody has danced so much on top of his own grave. Nobody has been so decisive, so many times, for Madrid. Nobody has been so great on the biggest nights, has been so devastating in the games that define what Madrid is. And yesterday he was again. Whatever happens here, he is in charge.”

Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan

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