(London Post) A Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick blew Wolfsburg away in the Bernabéu, as a clinical Real Madrid side overcame a 2-0 first leg deficit with a 3-0 second leg win to secure a Champions League semifinal spot.
(Ronaldo 16′, 17′, 77′)
Ever since their shock first leg defeat last Wednesday, Real Madrid’s players have been pointing to their side’s history of European comebacks – or “remontada.” A Cristiano Ronaldo treble ensured the club can add another chapter to that particular story.
As was the case last week, the Spanish side enjoyed the brighter start. But where last week they were profligate, this week they were lethal, two Cristiano Ronaldo goals in rapid succession punishing sloppy Wolfsburg defending before Ronaldo sealed the deal with a second-half free kick.
The opener came after 16 minutes. A weak cross from Real’s right back Dani Carvajal was deflected, Wolfsburg center backs Naldo and Dante failed to react quickly enough and the ball fell to Ronaldo, who made no mistake from close range.
As their opponents did in last week’s match, Wolfsburg crumbled after conceding. They lost possession shortly after the re-start, allowing Carvajal space on the right flank once more. Again the full back crossed for the Portuguese and again Ronaldo hit the target, forcing Diego Benaglio to tip over the bar.
From the resulting corner, Ronaldo doubled the home side’s lead with a glancing front-post header. As with the first goal, there were question marks over the German side’s defending with the competition’s top scorer given a free header in the box. The visitors had gone from 2-0 up in the tie to 2-2 in just 88 seconds.
Things got even worse for Dieter Hecking’s men on the half-hour mark, when Julian Draxler, whose performance in the first leg was good enough to see Carvajal replace Danilo for this game, limped off to be replaced by Max Kruse.
While the hosts continued to threaten, Wolfsburg gradually found some composure in the latter part of the first half and while they created little of note, they at least maintained aggregate parity going into the break.
Real, roared on by a vociferous Bernabéu crowd, started the second half with the same intensity that they had the first, pinning Wolfsburg in their own half, almost forcing Guilavogui in to an own goal and winning a succession of corners.
It was from one of those corners that Sergio Ramos almost gave his side the lead for the first time in this tie. His thumping header struck the inside of the post and Benaglio did well to scramble the ball in to his body and safety. Without goal-line technology in the Champions League, debate raged as to whether the Swiss stopped it from crossing the line.
But Real – and Cristiano Ronaldo – weren’t to be denied for long. Luiz Gustavo was controversially penalized for a tackle on the edge of his own box and Ronaldo stepped up to squeeze the ball between the heads of two Wolfsburg players in the wall and into Benaglio’s net, completing his hat-trick.
The third goal meant Wolfsburg had to attack in search of the away goal that would have seen them through. They bought on striker Bas Dost for Josuha Guilavogui but, in truth, Keylor Navas was barely threatened in the Madrid goal. Ultimately, the 10-time winners had too much for a side sitting eighth in the Bundesliga.