MADRID: Cristiano Ronaldo is human after all, or so he claims, despite sealing another “special” Champions League night with a hat-trick to put Real Madrid on the verge of the final once more. Ronaldo’s treble sealed a commanding 3-0 semi-final, first leg lead over Atletico Madrid and extended his advantage as the top scorer of all-time between the two sides with 21 in Madrid derbies. “With a combination of dedication and hard work, things come naturally,” said Ronaldo on Wednesday. “I am happy, lucky and human.”
Ronaldo’s second hat-trick of the season against Atletico took his tally a stunning eight Champions League goals in his last three outings having hit five as Real saw off Bayern Munich 6-3 in the quarter-finals. “It was a game full of emotions. The team was phenomenal and to score three goals made it a special night,” he added. The front pages of Madrid sports dailies Marca and AS agreed. “A colossal Cristiano KOs Atletico with three goals,” said Marca. “Real Madrid played great, but it was he who applied the finishing touch three times over,” read AS’ editorial. Contrary to previous years, Ronaldo, 32, is in the best form of the campaign at the business end of the season having been consistently rested against weaker opposition by coach Zinedine Zidane to reserve his best for the big occasion.
“I don’t know whether it’s all down to him being rested,” said Zidane. “Goalscoring is something he has over others, that is what makes him unique.” European pedigree – Ronaldo has now scored three more Champions League goals than Atletico have in their history with 103. That stat sums up the difference in European pedigree between Madrid’s two major clubs. For all the great work done to revive a sleeping giant in Atletico by Diego Simeone over the past five-and-a-half years, ending their hex against Real in the Champions League continues to allude them. — AFP