Ronaldo rampant in Real Madrid rout of Athletic Bilbao


Real Madrid moved into the Primera Division's top four as Cristiano Ronaldo's third hat-trick in four league games steered them to a 5-0 thrashing of struggling Athletic Bilbao at the Bernabeu. Ronaldo, who had been an injury doubt prior to the match, opened the scoring with a header on two minutes before Karim Benzema's 41st-minute nodded effort made it 2-0. The Portugal forward then slotted in a cross from Gareth Bale – who had also teed up his first of the evening – in the 55th minute, and subsequently set up a simple Benzema finish in the 69th. World player of the year Ronaldo capped another impressive display by completing his treble two minutes from time, taking his tally for the season to 17 goals. Real have now won six matches in a row in all competitions – during which they have scored 27 times – after back-to-back defeats earlier in the campaign. And they have leapfrogged defending champions Atletico Madrid to assume fourth place in the table, once again trailing leaders Barcelona by four points. Athletic, meanwhile, stay 18th, where they are level on four points with 19th-placed Cordoba and rock-bottom Deportivo La Coruna. The Basques went into the contest on a run of six games without a win in all competitions and looked bound for a seventh virtually from the off as, within 120 seconds, Bale delivered a fine cross and Ronaldo converted past goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz at the far post. Five minutes later Ronaldo was threatening again, cutting in from the left and firing in a low shot that Iraizoz got down to turn around the post. Benzema was just unable to finish from a Bale delivery in the 18th minute before Iker Muniain brought the first save out of Real stopper Iker Casillas with a looping volley that was tipped over the bar. There was little else for Casillas to do for the rest of the half, and Real's second goal duly arrived after Iraizoz came off his line to deny Ronaldo. From Luka Modric's resulting corner, Benzema crashed in a downward header. Bale was to the fore at the start of the second half, lashing a shot over and then, having latched on to Benzema's through-ball, bursting forward and squaring to Ronaldo, who tapped in from close range. Moments later Bale side-footed wide from James Rodriguez's back-heel, before Casillas was called upon to keep out a header from Athletic substitute Ibai Gomez. Real were soon back on the offensive and after Bale headed in and was flagged offside, the hosts added their fourth as Benzema stroked past Iraizoz from Ronaldo's pass. It was looking embarrassingly easy for Carlo Ancelotti's men and Iraizoz then pulled off three great saves – one from Modric and two from Ronaldo – to prevent further pain for the visitors. There was brief respite as Casillas saved well from Guillermo during a scramble at the other end, before Ronaldo and Bale made unsuccessful attempts to beat Iraizoz once more. Ronaldo would not be denied another goal, though, and it came when Pepe took a shot which bounced off his compatriot and over the line, with Athletic's appeals that it had been a handball going unheeded.