Cristiano Ronaldo scored his second hat-trick in four days and Karim Benzema netted a spectacular overhead kick to give Real Madrid a 4-1 win at Ajax Amsterdam in Champions League Group D on Wednesday.
A dominant Real wasted a host of chances before Ronaldo pounced on a loose ball to score from close range in the 42nd minute and Benzema finished off a swift Real break three minutes into the second half when he smashed home a Kaka centre.
Real’s vulnerability at set pieces gave Ajax hope in the 56th minute when Niklas Moisander stole in at the far post at a corner and nodded under Iker Casillas before Ronaldo scored twice in two minutes to kill off the game.
The victory consolidated Real’s lead at the top of the group with six points from two matches as the record winners bid for the 10th European title that has eluded them since 2002.
With Sunday’s La Liga ‘Clasico’ at arch rivals Barcelona looming, coach Jose Mourinho sprung several surprises in Real’s starting lineup, deploying little-used Brazil playmaker Kaka instead of Mesut Ozil and Luka Modric.
In only his second appearance this season, Kaka showed some of the form that won him a World Player of the Year award in 2007, tormenting the Ajax defence and linking up well with Ronaldo and Benzema.
Ajax, coached by former Netherlands international Frank De Boer, looked a shadow of the side that has won four European titles and barely threatened Casillas’ goal in the first half.
However, they fought back strongly in the second period as Real appeared to take their foot off the gas before Ronaldo, who scored three against Deportivo Coruna in La Liga on Sunday, completed his first Champions League treble.
Rodriguez sends Porto atop
Lisbon: Colombian James Rodriguez hit a swerving left-footed winner with only five minutes to go to hand Porto a 1-0 victory over Paris St Germain and give the Portuguese champions maximum points in Group A after two rounds.
Hodgson apologises to Ferdinand
London: England manager Roy Hodgson has publicly apologised to Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand after a private conversation about the demise of the defender's international career was published in an an English national newspaper. Hodgson is alleged to have told fellow passengers on a London Tube train en route to Arsenal's Champions League game that he would not select Ferdinand again.
Hodgson did leave Ferdinand out of his squad, announced on Thursday, for World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Poland. “I have tried to speak to Rio and I am very disappointed that the story has come out like that and I apologise to him because there is no way I would ever indicate I wasn't going to use a player in that way," Hodgson said.
Blackout mars Argentina-Brazil tie
Buenos Aires: The prestige international between Argentina and Brazil was called off on Wednesday night in the northern city of Chaco, when the floodlights failed just before kick-off.
After much hype and anticipation for the second leg of the “Superclasico de las Americas”, the teams were already on the pitch and the national anthems had been played before a massive floodlight failure threw the stadium into partial darkness.
Napoli lawyer plays down police raid
Rome: Napoli lawyer Mattia Grassani has played down suggestions that the club might be punished for financial foul play after Wednesday’s raid of their head offices by finance police. “There’s been too much alarmism, it was an action that is well within the normal checks that are carried out not only in sports clubs but also commercial enterprises,” he said.