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Ronaldo runs riot

March 02, 2003 12:21 IST

World Player of the Year Ronaldo was in devastating form as he fired a brilliant hat-trick to help Real Madrid to a 5-1 away win over a demoralised Alaves and send his side top of the Spanish first division on Saturday.

Spanish international Raul weighed in with two trademark opportunist strikes to put the pressure on Real Sociedad who will need to win their match at Valladolid on Sunday if they want to recover the top spot from the European champions.

At the other end of the table three quick-fire goals in the first 20 minutes earned basement club Recreativo Huelva a 3-2 win over Athletic Bilbao at San Mames, while Espanyol gained their first win in five outings 2-0 over Real Mallorca.

Anxious to erase the memory of last week's 6-0 thrashing at the hands of Deportivo Coruna, Alaves began in ambitious mood at their Mendizorroza stadium as they pushed forward deep into the Real Madrid half in search of an early goal.

But the Basque side's attacking formation left too many gaps at the back and Real were able to take advantage when Raul launched a lightning break on 12 minutes.

The Spain striker slipped the ball to Ronaldo who mesmerised the Alaves defence with three quick step-overs before drilling into the far corner past Richard Dutruel with his left foot.

Alaves responded to the setback by strengthening their defence and went close to claiming an equaliser when Jordi Cruyff fired over the bar on the half-hour mark.

But just when they looked to be getting back into the match Real struck again.

Dutruel failed to gather a cross from Oscar Minambres, who was deputising for the injured Luis Figo on the right wing, and Raul pounced on the loose ball to hit home from close range 10 minutes before the break.

HAMMER BLOW

Alaves threatened to claw their way back into the game after the restart, but they received a hammer blow when the Raul-Ronaldo combination sprang into action once again midway through the second half.

Ronaldo outpaced the Alaves defence as he latched onto Raul's pass then left a bemused former Barcelona team mate Abelardo flat on his back with his trademark shimmy before finishing off by slotting home under Dutruel.

Alaves eventually managed to pull one back when Uruguayan striker Ivan Alonso headed in from a free kick on 77 minutes, but Real showed no mercy as they restored their three-goal cushion immediately after the restart.

Ronaldo raced away unopposed to complete his first hat-trick since joining Real with another perfect finish -- this time with his right foot -- to bring his total for the season to 13.

Raul chipped in with his second and Real's fifth on 82 minutes with another fine finish after he had snapped up a neat through ball from substitute Guti to leave their disheartened opponents praying for the final whistle.

Simon Baskett
Source:
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