Image: Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates his third goal against Celta Vigo. REUTERS/Susana Vera
MADRID (Reuters) – Cristiano Ronaldo, fired up by rival Lionel Messi’s midweek hat-trick for Barcelona, struck four goals in 26 second-half minutes as Real Madrid crushed Celta Vigo 7-1 at the Bernabeu on Saturday.
Substitute Gareth Bale, playing his first match since a calf injury in mid-January, rounded off the rout nine minutes from time as Real recovered from the 1-0 derby loss at home to Atletico Madrid last weekend.
A return to form may be too late for Real in La Liga, nine points adrift of leaders Barca who play at Eibar on Sunday, but it has come in good time for next week’s Champions League last-16 second-leg tie against AS Roma which they lead 2-0.
After a first-half opener from defender Pepe, Ronaldo struck four times between the 50th and 76th minutes to take his La Liga tally to 27 and overtake Barcelona’s Luis Suarez, who has 25, as the league’s top scorer.
Substitute Jese scored Real’s sixth goal a minute after Ronaldo’s fourth.
Messi had caught up with Ronaldo on 35 hat-tricks each in all club competitions with a treble in Barcelona’s 5-1 win at Rayo Vallecano on Thursday.
“Madrid had a great game, they were a whirlwind,” Celta defender Hugo Mallo told Spanish TV.
“We stopped playing… We suffer a lot when we don’t have the ball, it was rather like what happened to us at the Nou Camp,” he added referring to a 6-1 loss to Barca three weeks’ ago.
Pepe opened the scoring five minutes before halftime with a bullet header from a corner.
Real took flight in the second half when Ronaldo got off the mark with a trademark shot from outside the box that dipped over Sergio Blanco who was well off his line.
The Portugal forward made it three with a superb free kick eight minutes later, whipping in a hard shot that dipped over the wall and beat Blanco for sheer speed.
The visitors pulled one back just past the hour when Iago Aspas beat Ramos and Pepe to a long clearance out of the Celta defence and lobbed goalkeeper Keylor Navas.
But Real kept Celta pegged back in defence and Ronaldo completed his hat-trick inside 14 minutes from a pass by Isco after a good combination with Lucas Vazquez.
His fourth goal was a header from a cross by Jese, who scored the team’s sixth a minute later after a dribble through the defence and a shot that went in at the base of the post.
Bale put the icing on the cake with a thunderbolt from outside the box on the left that went in off the far post.
The win put Real one point behind Atletico Madrid before they visit Valencia on Sunday and seven clear of Villarreal, who are at home to Las Palmas later on Saturday.
(Writing by Rex Gowar, editing by Alan Baldwin and Ken Ferris)
Copyright 2015 Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions.