Cristiano Ronaldo’s completion in stoppage tome of his second-half hat-trick against Galatasaray last night was the perfect way to underline his star quality and inestimable value to Real Madrid. Handed a new five-year contract, the Portuguese wasted no time in repaying the faith of his employers.
There was much to admire about Madrid’s all-round performance in Istanbul as they gradually gained the upper hand then systematically dismantled a side that had done well to contain them for the first half-hour.
Surviving an early setback as Iker Casillas was forced off the pitch after just 15 minutes of his first appearance of the season, and with Sergio Ramos and Pepe looking anything but assured in the centre of their defence, Carlo Ancelotti’s men soaked up the pressure from Galatasaray, who dominated much of the first half.
It was no surprise that, when Madrid did take the lead on the half-hour, it was on the counter-attack. A great first touch and finish by Isco Alarcon from the first of Angel di Maria’s three assists saw Madrid open the scoring against the run of play with their first shot on target.
Isco’s summer signing has been a catalyst for change at the Bernabeu and, with Gareth Bale on the bench, the former Malaga man has been catching the eye with his running, positional play and excellent finishing. Three years Bale’s junior, he has brought a freshness and vitality to Madrid.
The art of great finishing was also on show from Karim Benzema, rifling home his 32nd and 33rd goals in 52 Champions League appearances and providing some answers to the fans who have targeted him for some below par performances in La Liga.
With Isco, Benzema and Di Maria getting the plaudits, it was time for Ronaldo to make his mark and show that he remains the main man at the Bernabeu. None of his hat-trick goals were spectacular, there were no long-range free kicks, but Ronaldo, who also unselfishly set up Benzema’s second, completed the systematic and ruthless transformation as Madrid completed the demolition of their opponents.
In contrast, Real Sociedad, new to the Champions League, more than matched their more experienced opponents as they took on Shakhtar Donetsk at Anoeta. In a game played at a frantic pace, Antoine Griezmann once again impressed, and La Real created numerous chances.
Crucially, however, they failed to take them and were then cruelly punished when Shakhtar’s Alex Teixeira took advantage of lax marking from Mikel Gonzalez to fire home. Like Madrid, Shakhtar knew how to bide their time and soak up pressure, waiting for an error to exploit and pouncing just at the right moment, with Teixeira repeating the trick to seal the points for Shakhtar and hand La Real a salutary lesson.