REPORT | 02/05/2017 | Alberto NavarroA hat-trick from the Portuguese forward puts the Whites into pole position in the semi-final tie, which will be decided next Wednesday at the Calderón.
- Champions League
- Semi Final (First-Leg)
The tie couldn't have got off to a better start for the hosts, who fashioned their first opening with just seven minutes on the clock. Dani Carvajal exchanged passes with Isco, only for the youth-team graduate's effort to be palmed away by Jan Oblak, who was then on hand to deny Karim Benzema on the follow-up. This was a foretaste for what was to come as Madrid broke the deadlock just three minutes later. Casemiro swung in a volleyed cross and Cristiano Ronaldo leapt highest to power the ball home with a towering header.
The defending European champions weren't prepared to sit on their lead and the home side came a whisker away from doubling their advantage just six minutes later. Toni Kroos sent over a corner and Raphaël Varane's headed effort was turned behind by the inspired Oblak. Atlético looked to hit back on 17', but Keylor Navas outfoxed Kevin Gameiro when the Frenchman found himself clean through. That scare didn't set the Whites off their stride in what had been a fine first-half showing, and seven minutes later Luka Modric came just inches away from the finding the corner of the net with an effort from the edge of the area. Meanwhile, Benzema came equally close to hitting the target on 29' after he met Cristiano Ronaldo's cross with an overhead kick which shaved the crossbar.
There were no real chances of note as half-time drew closer, but an injury to Carvajal did force Zinedine Zidane into the first change of the match, and Nacho took his place after the restart. The second half didn’t start at the same break-neck pace as the first. The game became scrappy and chances were few and far between, but Real Madrid made no mistake the moment they got a sniff of goal. With 73 minutes gone, Marcelo threaded a pass threw to Benzema, who moved it on to his right where Cristiano Ronaldo was arriving to thunder the ball past Oblak with his right.
Everything seemed to be going the way of the European Champions and in the 85th minute, when you got the sense they could really put Atlético to the sword, they increased the deficit further. It was a fine team move which saw Lucas Vázquez race to the by-line and pull the ball back for Cristiano, who once again finished with aplomb. The goal brought up a hat-trick for the Portuguese forward, who has now netted eight goals over the course of the quarter-final and semi-final ties. The impressive return on the night puts the European Champions in the driving seat and they will now bid to defend their advantage when they head to the Calderón for next Wednesday’s return leg.