x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Quick-fire Ronaldo hat-trick puts Real Madrid back on top

Real beat Malaga 4-0 as Barcelona drop points at Camp Nou after Lionel Messi has a injury-minute penalty a 0-0 draw against stubborn Sevilla.

MADRID // Cristiano Ronaldo hit a 15-minute hat-trick as Real Madrid swept aside Malaga 4-0 in a first-half blitz to go top of the Primera Liga.

It was a battle between the Qatar-owned Malaga, who invested heavily in the summer as they aim for a place in Europe, and the old order, but it turned into a mismatch as Real cruised to victory.

"I liked everything about the way we played — the first touch, the second touch and the way we pressed when we lost the ball," said Real coach Jose Mourinho.

"It was a game that I liked in all aspects, we scored goals from different styles of play and then in the second half it was impossible to maintain that level. After the break Malaga fought for their pride and could have scored."

Gonzalo Higuain, who has hit two hat-tricks in his last two games for Real, as well as another in between for Argentina, sent the visitors on their way after 10 minutes before Ronaldo stole the show with three goals in 15 minutes.

Ronaldo side-footed home an Angel di Maria cross and then fired in from the edge of the area before completing his hat-trick with an acrobatic flick from close range.

Ruud van Nistelrooy, the former Real striker, was a surprise exclusion from the Malaga starting side but he would have found it difficult to make a difference anyway as Real ran riot and the Malaga strikers saw little of the ball.

After the break Real relaxed and Malaga were able to exert themselves more but with a four-goal deficit, the game was already won.

Joaquin Sanchez and Seba Fernandez both hit the woodwork for the home side but they were unable to manage even a consolation.

Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini said that his team needs to improve defensively.

"We cannot afford to be worrying so much about the defence and against Real we gave their forwards too many opportunities," he said.

"I am very unhappy with the game as we are making basic errors but we will get this right, I have no doubts."

Real lead the table with 19 points after Barcelona were held to a 0-0 draw at home to Sevilla.

Sevilla goalkeeper Javi Varas saved a stoppage-time Lionel Messi penalty to cap a brilliant display as his team became the first to shut out Barcelona at home in the league this season.

The game ended in controversial fashion with Sevilla reduced to nine men, Frederic Kanoute sent off for two bookable offences after the penalty award — the first for kicking the ball off the spot and the second for clipping Cesc Fabregas around the head — and Fernando Navarro following him down the tunnel in the sixth minute of added time.

But Barca could not find the breakthrough as Varas frustrated Pep Guardiola's champions, saving everything they threw at him.

Sporting produced a stunning first-half display to secure their first win of the season in a 2-0 success over Granada.

The hosts started with a bang as Diego Barral put them in front after only five minutes, with Castro extending the lead three minutes from the interval after a goalkeeping error.

Meanwhile, Espanyol secured their second consecutive 1-0 win on the road thanks to Sergio Garcia's second-half winner against rock bottom Racing Santander at El Sardinero.