Real Madrid 6-0 Espanyol

Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo has 19 La Liga goals for the season

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick as Real Madrid thrashed Espanyol to cut the gap between themselves and La Liga leaders Barcelona to four points.

Real scored three goals in the first 16 minutes, with Karim Benzema heading the first from James Rodriguez’s cross.

Ronaldo added a penalty, before Rodriguez scored with a deflected shot.

A fizzing Ronaldo strike made it 4-0 by half-time, and he completed a hat-trick by heading in a Jese cross, before Oscar Duarte scored a late own goal.

Real enjoy home comforts

Karim Benzema’s early header was his 18th La Liga goal of the season

After last weekend’s 1-1 draw at Real Betis, it was imperative that Real responded well, and they started spectacularly.

Zinedine Zidane’s side scored three in the opening 12 minutes in their last home game, when they beat Sporting Gijon 5-1, and were almost as fast off the mark this time.

With Rodriguez filling in for the injured Gareth Bale in Real’s front three, Espanyol were ripped apart, with Ronaldo the star as he moved level with Barcelona’s Luis Suarez – on 19 goals – in the race to be La Liga’s leading scorer.

From Deepdale to despair

Giedrius Arlauskis was beaten three times in the first 16 minutes of his Espanyol debut

It was just about the most testing debut imaginable for Espanyol’s new goalkeeper Giedrius Arlauskis, signed on loan from Watford during the week.

The Lithuania international faced England in a Euro 2016 qualifier in October, but his only previous start at club level this season was for the Hornets in a Capital One Cup defeat at Preston in August.

Arlauskis saved well from Ronaldo’s early free-kick and could not be blamed for Real’s three quick goals – although the general sense of panic among Espanyol’s defenders suggested that communication issues with the goalkeeper may have affected their levels of organisation.

The keeper may feel he could have done better with the fourth, as he got a hand to Ronaldo’s shot, but the Portugal international’s dazzling footwork deserved a goal as he bamboozled the visiting defence to create space to score.

By the end, Espanyol’s defence was begging for mercy – with Costa Rica international Duarte a crestfallen sight as he turned Jese’s low ball past the keeper for Real’s sixth goal.

What next?

Both teams are back in La Liga action next Sunday, with Real Madrid visiting relegation-threatened Granada, while Espanyol host Real Sociedad.

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