Cristiano Ronaldo took his tally for the La Liga season to a phenomenal 13 goals in six appearances with his third treble of the campaign as Real Madrid romped to a 5-0 win at home to Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.
A rampant Ronaldo, who equalled the La Liga record of 22 hat-tricks jointly held by Alfredo Di Stefano and Telmo Zarra, nodded Real in front from Gareth Bale’s lofted centre in the third minute at the Bernabeu.
Karim Benzema made it 2-0 four minutes before halftime when he headed home at a corner and Bale sped clear to set up Ronaldo for his second 10 minutes into the second half.
The Portuguese World Player of the Year unselfishly squared for Benzema to make it 4-0 in the 69th and completed his treble two minutes from time when the ball bounced off his body into the net.
Only a series of superb stops by Gorka Iraizoz in the Bilbao goal prevented a total embarrassment for the struggling Basque side as Real provided more evidence they have put an early-season stumble firmly behind them.
“We still have room for improvement,” Ronaldo, clutching another match ball for his growing collection, said in an interview with Spanish television broadcaster Canal Plus.
“The team played a good match and scored five goals without conceding, we are very pleased,” added the 29-year-old.
The victory lifted Real above Atletico Madrid into fourth place on 15 points following the champions’ 3-1 reverse at Valencia on Saturday.
Barcelona lead on 19 points and became the first team to avoid conceding in their opening seven La Liga games thanks to Saturday’s 2-0 success at Rayo Vallecano.
Valencia are second on 17 points and Sevilla a point further back in third after they thrashed promoted Deportivo La Coruna 4-1 earlier on Sunday helped by a brace from Cameroon midfielder Stephane Mbia.
Bilbao, without a win in seven matches in all competitions and beaten 2-1 at BATE Borisov in the Champions League on Tuesday, are 18th on four points.
Mbia opened the scoring for Europa League champions Sevilla, who were trounced 4-0 at Atletico last weekend, with a 24th-minute header before Haris Medunjanin levelled for Depor with a superb free kick in the 31st.
Carlos Bacca, who had a second-half penalty saved, made it 2-1 six minutes before halftime, Mbia smashed in his second in the 57th and Vitolo netted Sevilla’s fourth in the 63rd after a fine solo run by the excellent Gerard Deulofeu.
In Sunday’s other games, Villarreal won 3-1 at Celta Vigo and Espanyol beat visiting Real Sociedad 2-0.