Cristiano Ronaldo became Real Madrid’s all-time top La Liga goalscorer on Saturday as his five goals condemned Espanyol to a 6-0 mauling.
Injuries to Danilo and James Rodriguez during the international break afforded Dani Carvajal and Isco a welcome opportunity to stake their respective claims in the side.
Elsewhere for Los Blancos, Pepe replaced Raphael Varane in central defence, while Casemiro partnered Luka Modric in the middle of the park at Toni Kroos’ expense.
Former Periquitos Kiko Casilla and Lucas Vazquez, however, only made the substitutes’ bench for their first return to Cornella-El Prat as Madrid players.
Espanyol, on the other hand, paid tribute to legendary striker Raul Tamudo, who retired earlier in the week, prior to kick-off.
Although Espanyol were culpable for the game’s first shot on target, Ronaldo got off mark for 2015-16 inside just seven minutes with a simple finish after Modric beautifully picked him out with a lofted through ball from his own half.
He then grabbed his second from the penalty spot, conjuring up the perfect balance of power and precision to bury his effort, despite Pau Lopez guessing the right way, after Alvaro Gonzalez clumsily clattered into Gareth Bale.
The Welshman grew into the game as the minutes wore thin, helping himself to a second assist as he curled a pinpoint cross into the box for Ronaldo to volley home first time.
It meant Ronaldo once more joined Lionel Messi on the most hat-tricks in Spanish football history with 32 and became the quickest scorer of a treble since 1960.
Madrid rounded off the half with a fine team goal, instigated by the ‘BBC’. Starting with Bale through the middle, he then slipped in Ronaldo with a slide-rule pass, before the No 7’s square ball across goal was tucked away by Benzema.
Espanyol continued to enjoy the majority of possession, even edging Madrid on pass completion, yet Ronaldo was ready to become Los Blancos’ all-time leading marksman in the League, beating previous record holder Raul Gonzalez’s haul of 228 by finishing off Bale’s low cross.
Ronaldo then found the back of the net for the fifth and final time of the afternoon as Vazquez came off the bench to tee up the the Portuguese from close range after dancing his way into the box from the right-hand side.
Espanyol 0-6 Real Madrid
Ronaldo 7, 17, 20, 61, 81, Benzema 28
Espanyol: Pau; Arbilla, Alvaro, Ciani (Montanes 46), Duarte; Sevilla, Sanchez (Jordan 65), Lopez (Canas 46), Alvarez; Gerard, Caicedo
Real Madrid: Navas; Carvajal, Ramos (Varane 75), Pepe, Marcelo; Modric (Kovacic 56), Casemiro; Isco, Bale, Ronaldo; Benzema (Vazquez 63)
Referee: Bikandi Garrido