Madrid - Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo struck the quickest hat-trick of his career on his way to netting five goals in a 9-1 drubbing of second-from-bottom Granada on Sunday that lifted Real to within a point of La Liga leaders Barcelona.
Portugal forward Ronaldo struck three times in eight minutes in the first half and added two headers after the break on a festive, sun-drenched afternoon at the Bernabeu to help fire Real to their biggest victory in almost half a century.
Ronaldo's five goals, the first time he has achieved the feat, took his tally in La Liga this season to 36, four ahead of Barca forward Lionel Messi, who will have a chance to reduce the deficit when Barca play at Celta Vigo later on Sunday.
After failing to find the net in his previous nine outings, Gareth Bale netted his fifth in his last four appearances for club and country to put Real ahead in the 25th minute.
The Wales winger and world record signing pounced on a defensive error, rounded Granada goalkeeper Oier Olazabal and slotted the ball into the empty net.
Ronaldo clipped home his first of the game five minutes later, added a second after more poor defending in the 36th minute and a third in the 38th when Oier could only palm his fierce shot into the net.
Also read: Ronaldo into the record books
Karim Benzema made it 5-0 at a corner seven minutes into the second half, Ronaldo nodded his fourth two minutes later and Benzema grabbed his second a further two minutes after that as Real put a woeful Granada to the sword.
Robert Ibanez pulled a goal back for the visitors in the 74th minute before Granada defender Diego Mainz put the ball into his own net seven minutes from time and Ronaldo nodded his fifth in the final minute.
Ronaldo, the World Player of the Year, has scored three or more goals 24 times in La Liga, equalling the record set this season by Messi.
The Portuguese has 31 career hat-tricks overall but Sunday's effort was only the second time he has netted one in the first half. He has scored more goals in La Liga this term than 53 of the 98 teams in Europe's top five leagues.
The crushing victory for second-placed Real was just the tonic they needed after a run of three defeats in four games in all competitions, including a 2-1 reverse at Barca in the 'Clasico' on March 22.
"We started the game well and our attitude was spectacular," Real fullback Marcelo told Spanish television.
"We didn't stop for a moment, we knew how to respect Granada and keep playing how we know and that's why we scored nine goals," added the Brazil international.
"We have improved. You could see that on the pitch. We had a positive attitude and the confidence is back. We have to continue the same way."
Barca have 68 points from 28 matches, with Real on 67 from 29. Champions Atletico Madrid are third on 62 points after they won 2-0 at bottom side Cordoba on Saturday.
Valencia, on 60 points in fourth, can climb back above Atletico with a win at home to sixth-placed Villarreal later on Sunday.
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