Cristiano Ronaldo netted yet another hat-trick – his third in a fortnight – as Madrid produced their most complete performance of the season to destroy hopeless Athletic Bilbao at the Bernabeu.
Ronaldo got the ball rolling with an early header and went on to complete his treble, while Karim Benzema continued his good form with a brace in a game which saw the hosts create at least a dozen good chances.
They only needed two minutes to take the lead, with a long passing move culminating in Dani Carvajal charging down the right to find Gareth Bale, whose deep cross was easily headed home at the far post by the unmarked Ronaldo.
Madrid were completely on top during the opening exchanges and Ronaldo nearly scored again after seven minutes, forcing visiting keeper Gorka Iraizoz into a low save at his near post.
Although they always looked vulnerable in defence, Athletic slowly improved during the middle phase and Iker Muniain seriously tested Iker Casillas for the first time with a beautifully executed long-range dipping volley, but the home keeper pushed the ball over the bar.
Shortly before the interval Bale and Benzema combined dangerously on the edge of the box and the loose ball dropped into the path of Ronaldo, who seemed certain to score until Iraizoz raced off his line to block his close-range shot.
But the reprieve was just temporary as the subsequent corner was swung over from the right by Luka Modric and Benzema rose high to head home.
The onslaught continued in the second half, with Madrid’s ‘BBC’ frontline of Bale, Benzema and Cristiano running riot and looking capable of scoring every time they attacked.
Bale should have made it 3-0 but fired over after being teed up by Ronaldo, but the Welshman soon redeemed himself by running onto Benzema’s clever flick and rolling an inch-perfect low right-wing cross for Ronaldo to convert.
Athletic’s defence was alarmingly open and it was no surprise when the fourth was added with frightening ease, as Modric’s pass found Ronaldo in oceans of room and he squared a simple pass to the unmarked Benzema for a tap-in.
Modric then tried his luck with a long-range strike which Iraizoz saved with discomfort before then denying Ronaldo his hat-trick with a low stop, and it was simply a question of how many more goals the home team would add against their utterly dispirited opposition who just wanted the game to end.
The overworked Iraizoz saved well from Ronaldo’s header and then made a miraculous stop to deny Bale a deserved goal, while Casillas kept out Mikel Balenziaga’s close-range effort from a corner.
Inevitably, Ronaldo had the final word as he completed his hat-trick with arguably the worst goal he’ll ever score, inadvertently deflecting Pepe’s wayward effort into the net with his elbow.