Cristiano Ronaldo sets record, Madrid routs Malmo 8-0
MADRID — Cristiano Ronaldo became the first player to score 10 goals or more in the group stage of the Champions League, claiming four as Real Madrid routed Malmo 8-0 on Tuesday.
Ronaldo reached 11 goals in six games, surpassing the nine scored by Luiz Adriano with Shakhtar Donetsk last season. Ronaldo also scored nine times in the 2013-14 season group stage.
As well, Ronaldo set up two goals by Karim Benzema, who scored a hat trick at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. Mateo Kovacic also netted.
Madrid secured the biggest margin of victory in the Champions League since Liverpool defeated Besiktas also by 8-0 in 2007.
The game meant little for Madrid because it had already secured first place in Group A, but the convincing victory helped ease the pressure on coach Rafa Benitez and president Florentino Perez. Fans were still angry at the demoralizing 4-0 home loss to Barcelona in the Spanish league and disqualification from the Copa del Rey because of an ineligible player.
"We are very satisfied and happy for all of the Madrid fans who didn't lose faith in this team," said Benitez, who was in command of Liverpool when it routed Besiktas in 2007. "This is football, things change week after week. It's important for us to keep winning."
Ronaldo made life easier for his coach and president with another remarkable performance, helping Madrid end the group stage with three more points than Paris Saint-Germain.
"I'm happy that I've achieved another record," said Ronaldo, the Champions League's all-time leading scorer. "I'm happy with my season so far. There were some setbacks in the beginning but now I'm more confident."
He scored his first goal from an angled free kick just before halftime to make it 3-0, firing a shot that bounced just in front of the goalkeeper before reaching the far corner. He increased the lead by picking up a loose ball in front of the goal just after the interval, and notched the third moments later with a low cross shot. His fourth goal came after a cross by Francisco "Isco" Alarcon nine minutes later.
Ronaldo's previous Champions League goals this season came with a hat trick against Shakhtar Donetsk at home, and two-goal strikes in away victories at Malmo and Shakhtar.
"It always helps to have ambitious players in the team and Cristiano is one of these players," Benitez said. "He motivates everyone by always trying to do more on the field."
Benzema opened the scoring from close range off the rebound of a shot by Isco. His and the team's second was a header after another well-placed cross by Ronaldo. His third came after a breakaway midway through the second half.
It was the second straight game in which he scored at least two, after a brace in the 4-1 win over Getafe in the Spanish league on Saturday. Those were his first goals since being implicated in a blackmail case in relation to an alleged extortion scam over a sex tape featuring his France teammate Mathieu Valbuena.
After one of Ronaldo's goals, Real Madrid players ran to the bench and embraced Denis Cheryshev, whose appearance in the Copa del Rey last week disqualified the team because he was carrying a one-game suspension from last season. Cheryshev was jeered by Madrid fans on Saturday, but he was loudly applauded on Tuesday when he came on as a substitute with Madrid up 8-0.
Madrid has won five straight games since the humiliating home loss to Barcelona.
Malmo came into the match with a chance to secure a place in the Europa League but finished last in the group.
"We knew that it would be very difficult against Real Madrid here, considering the quality they have," Malmo coach Age Hareide said.
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