Red-hot Cristiano Ronaldo struck FOUR TIMES as Real Madrid beat Girona in a hugely entertaining goal filled clash to move four points behind second-place Atletico Madrid.
Ronaldo was at his lethal best, sending Madrid ahead in the 11th minute with a neat finish, before Cristhian Stuani equalised with a bullet header.
The Portuguese forward put Madrid back ahead after the break with another cracking effort in off the bar, then set up Lucas Vazquez for the third.
Ronaldo tucked home the fourth from close range after Benzema’s shot was saved before Stuani pulled one back.
Gareth Bale and Ronaldo added further goals for Madrid with Juanpe netting at the other end in a hectic finale – before Ronaldo had the final say.
Real Madrid 5-3 Girona LIVE score and goal updates from La Liga clash at the Bernabeu
1. Four goal hero Ronaldo hunting down Messi (both of them)
Forget Lionel Messi, this week it seems Cristiano Ronaldo was trying to outdo the Egyptian Messi.
Mo Salah scored four and got an assist for Liverpool against Watford and in this game Ronaldo did just the same, hitting four and setting up Lucas Vazquez.
Ronaldo completed the 50th hat-trick of his career for club and country, in doing so reaching a grand total of 22 La Liga goals.That means he’s now just four behind Messi in the scoring charts, after the Argentine struck once against Athletic Bilbao earlier Sunday.
The majority of Ronaldo’s goals have come in the past two and a half months, after his slow start to the season. In fact, in 2018 Ronaldo has more league goals (18) than Arsenal, Manchester United (15) and Chelsea (12).
Looking at his form in all competitions, Ronaldo has an incredible 21 goals in 11 games. There is no player in better goalscoring form in the world.
2. Madrid exact revenge on plucky Girona
One of the results of the season was Girona’s outstanding home win over Real Madrid on September 29.
Isco sent Madrid ahead but Stuani and Portu struck to turn the game on its head and earn the Catalans an outstanding result against the champions.
With the political situation over Catalan independence red hot, Montilivi turned into a party venue, with the stunned locals thrilled by their side’s result.
It can’t be forgotten that this was the first time they had faced Madrid, their first time in La Liga. And, in keeping with their excellent season and fearless performances, at the Bernabeu Girona came to win, as they did at home.
Even after Ronaldo sent Madrid ahead, Pablo Machin’s side fought their way back into the game through Stuani, and even had chances to go ahead before Madrid won it.
Despite another good Girona showing, in which they battled to the end, Madrid will consider this revenge exacted after their humiliation in Catalonia.
3. Bale’s place in danger for Juve
With Real Madrid’s league situation rendering their games in that competition close to dead rubbers (but still worth watching as they are turning out to be utter goalfests), the rest of the season for them is about the Champions League.
That means Zidane will be using La Liga matches as ‘casting’ sessions so he can settle on his top team, the one which will start in Turin against Juventus on April 3.
Gareth Bale is currently not in that side. In fact, barring the return of Luka Modric, who should replace Mateo Kovacic, this team is currently the most likely to start.
Bale is already annoyed about being forced to sit on the bench in both legs of the last 16 against PSG and he’s desperate to prove to Zidane that he is worth picking at the Juventus Stadium.
The coach threw him on for the final 20 minutes and Bale produced a goal, beating the offside trap to reach Luka Modric’s ball and squeezing a low shot past Bono.
A good start, but will it be enough?
4. Benzema vindicated
Undoubtedly Karim Benzema is not having his finest season, but the weight of the criticism on him is far heavier than it should be.
As coach Zidane keeps pointing out, what Benzema offers goes far beyond simply scoring the goals. The French striker helps raise the level of the players around him and we saw him at his best here.
Benzema played an inch-perfect through-ball for Ronaldo to slam home at the start of the second half, before contributing to Madrid’s third goal with supreme link-up play.
Inadvertently he set up Ronaldo’s third too, with his shot parried into the Portuguese striker’s path to tuck home.
Benzema’s critics will point to that miss as the reason they have it in for him, but ultimately it led to Madrid scoring anyway.
If Madrid win the Champions League this season, Benzema will have something to do with it.
5. Stuani shock for Boro fans
Cristhian Stuani was decent for Middlesborough, in the Championship. The Uruguayan journeyman scored seven goals to help them reach the Premier League.
Then in English football’s top flight, he managed four in 23, before leaving for Girona. Ultimately a disappointment.
So imagine Boro fans’ surprise should they take a peek at Spain’s top scorers chart.
There are the usual suspects, as mentioned earlier, Messi on 25, Ronaldo on 22, Luis Suarez on 21. Antoine Griezmann on 17, and now Stuani on 17 too.
The 31-year-old forward with a seemingly misspelt first name has set La Liga alight this season.
Stuani’s goals have been crucial in Girona’s bid for Europa League football, arriving for a small, undisclosed fee but performing like a marquee player. Next to be seen on a screen near you, playing for Uruguay at the World Cup.
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