Cristiano Ronaldo’s splendid hat-trick carried a brilliance that blinded and stumped Atletico.
Remember referee Martin Atkinson of England? The very same man who spoilt Tottenham Hotspurs’ party by giving Chelsea a dubious penalty to turn the match the latter’s way? As he walked in with his England assistants Stephen Child and Stuart Burt, one feared a repeat show at the 85,000 capacity Bernabeu.
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It did happen no doubt but then that man Cristiano Ronaldo’s splendid hat-trick carried far too much of a punch and no decision could turn the game away from Real Madrid. Cristiano thus has struck 10 goals in 11 CL games and has a total of 103 in the competition.
Yet, a couple of his early decisions all but provided a twist to the tale and Atletico Madrid would surely be ruing the fact that Atkinson’s assistant Stuart did not raise his flag when Cristiano was offside as Carvaljo lobbed into the box. The flag stayed down despite Atletico’s protests. Casemiro banged it into the ground as it was cleared. Cristiano, this time played onside by the defense, popped up to head past Jan Oblak as the stadium erupted in joy.
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That was a mere ten minutes into the game.
Real toyed with Atletico and had the ball to themselves for a big portion but their propensity to play wrong passes saw them give it away without much provocation. The gates were wide open too but Atletico failed to make the most of them on at least three occasions.
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Fortunately, Atkinson did not point to the spot after Gameiro came crashing down with goalkeeper Navas even touching him as he cleared the ball. Yet, Atkinson blundered by not booking Gameiro for simulation.
But before Atletico or Atkinson could get into their respective acts, Cristiano struck two more — in the 73rd as Marcelo crossed low from the left. Benzema, just outside the box, held off stopper and Filipe Luis for Cristiano Ronaldo. As the ball lobbed and dropped down, Cristiano slammed an angled right-footer in a flash. Real had insurance cover by now.
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And four minutes before close, Cristiano got a hat-trick as he sent Lucas Vazquez away on the right, moved into the box and waited for the return. It came soon and Cristiano simply rolled it into the net past a maze of Atletico legs. The stadium went wild with joy.
The return leg will be at the Vicente Calderon and Atletico now have a mountain to climb. Real Madrid are assured of a place in the final at Cardiff on May 27, 2017.
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