MADRID: Cristiano Ronaldo moved in front of Lionel Messi as the top goalscorer in Champions League history with a hat-trick as Real Madrid opened their European campaign with a 4-0 win over 10-man Shakhtar Donetsk yesterday. Ronaldo scored twice from the penalty spot before heading home to complete his second hat-trick in four days and take his tally in the competition to 80, three ahead of his Barcelona rival.
Karim Benzema had opened the scoring thanks to a massive error from goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov in the first-half before Taras Stepanenko was sent-off for a second bookable offence just five minutes into the second period. However, the victory was soured by an injury to Gareth Bale as the Welshman limped off suffering from a calf muscle problem after just half an hour. “Bale had a spasm in his calf muscle,” said Madrid boss Rafael Benitez. “We must wait a day or two to see how serious it is. He had a similar issue last year.” Shakhtar boss Mircea Lucescu, meanwhile, was outraged at the decisions of referee Ivan Bebek. “During the first 30 minutes we had quite good control, we created some opportunities. The mistake (for the first goal) proved very dear for us,” he said. “In the second-half we had a player sent-off in Stepanenko. I want them to respect us, but unfortunately during these matches against the great teams of Europe almost the same thing has happened.” Shakhtar have been displaced from their home city of Donetsk for over a year due to the unstable political situation in Ukraine and weakened by the sales of Douglas Costa and Luiz Adriano since reaching the last 16 last season. Yet, they contained Madrid reasonably well before the floodgates opened after Stepanenko’s dismissal. Bale saw an audacious back-heeled effort with his weaker right foot held by Pyatov before Benzema somehow contrived to blast over with the goal at his mercy after rounding the Ukranian ‘keeper. The hosts then suffered a blow as the lively Bale went down holding his left calf and hobbled off to be replaced by Mateo Kovacic.
However, the Croatian midfielder hadn’t yet been introduced when Pyatov undid all of Shakhtar’s previous good work by dropping a cross at Benzema’s feet to allow the French international to sweep home the opener into an empty net. The visitors’ uphill task became almost impossible when Stepanenko was shown a second yellow card for a needless lunge on Sergio Ramos five minutes into the second-half. Rafael Benitez’s men were then handed another gift, this time by the referee, who pointed to the spot despite Ronaldo’s effort clearly coming off the back of Shakhtar captain Darijo Srna. Ronaldo wasn’t complaining as he dispatched the penalty confidently to move out on his own as the top goalscorer in the history of the competition. The World Player of the Year scored again from the spot moments later for another handball as this time Marcio Azevedo was penalised. Ronaldo had struck five times during the 6-0 rout of Espanyol at the weekend and his goal glut after a slow start to the campaign continued nine minutes from time when he headed into an unguarded net after Pyatov had made a fine initial save from Marcelo. The Portuguese is now also just two goals away from equalling club legend Raul’s record as Madrid’s all-time leading scorer. -AFP