Ronaldo destroys Sevilla with hat-trick
Cristiano Ronaldo warmed up in style for Wednesday's Champions League showdown with former club Manchester United by claiming a hat-trick and an assist as Real Madrid crushed Sevilla 4-1 in La Liga on Saturday.
The Portuguese forward, who became the world's most expensive player when he joined Real from United in 2009, set up Karim Benzema to open the scoring from close range in the 18th minute at a festive Bernabeu stadium.
Ronaldo doubled the home side's lead with a powerful left-foot strike from the edge of the area eight minutes later and added his second in the 46th minute after a blunder in the Sevilla defence.
The 28-year-old completed his treble in the 59th minute when he started and finished a swift break to chalk up the 21st hat-trick of his career and his 17th in La Liga.
Ronaldo took his tally for the season to 24 league goals, 10 behind top scorer Lionel Messi of Barcelona.
"We have a phenomenon (in Ronaldo). I cannot recall anything like it," Real director and former club great Emilio Butragueno told Canal Plus television.
"It seems normal for him to score three goals and we continue to enjoy his performances."
Real forward Gonzalo Higuain was sent off midway through the second half for a second yellow card but it did little to sour the party atmosphere ahead of United's visit in a last-16 first leg tie.
Ronaldo was substituted to a rousing ovation shortly before Higuain's dismissal and Sevilla's misery was compounded with 10 minutes left when Hedwiges Maduro picked up a second yellow.
Substitute Manu del Moral pulled a goal back for the Andalusians three minutes from time.
Third-placed Real's victory trimmed the deficit on Atletico Madrid in second spot to four points ahead of the visit of their city rivals to Rayo Vallecano on Sunday (2000 GMT).
Real have 46 points from 23 matches with Atletico on 50 and leaders Barca, who host Getafe (1100) on Sunday, on 59. Sevilla are 11th on 29 points.
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