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Ronaldo hat-trick extends Madrid’s La Liga lead

MADRID (AFP) – 

Cristiano Ronaldo returned to goalscoring form with his first hat-trick of the season despite also missing a penalty as Real Madrid extended their lead at the top of La Liga with a 4-1 win at Alaves on Saturday.

Ronaldo’s wayward form in recent weeks had come under the spotlight, but he turned the game around after Deyverson had put Alaves into a shock early lead.

The Portuguese levelled from the penalty spot before his deflected effort put Madrid ahead at the break.

Ronaldo saw another penalty saved 12 minutes from time, but wasn’t to be denied when he slammed home Marcelo’s cut-back after Alvaro Morata’s cushioned lob had made the game safe.

Real now lead Sevilla by three points at the top of the table and Barcelona by five.

However, Barca can cut the gap back to two points with victory at home to Granada later on Saturday.

Real’s unbeaten run stretches to 26 matches, but their defensive struggles continued in Vitoria as Zinedine Zidane’s men got off to the worst possible start when Deyverson pounced on an error from Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas to slot Alaves into a seventh minute lead.

Gareth Bale had a goal ruled out for offside as Real sought an immediate response.

However, the visitors needed two slices of fortune to turn the game around before half-time.

Firstly, Deyverson was adjudged to have handled a Bale free-kick inside his own area and Ronaldo slotted home the penalty.

Ronaldo’s second came 16 minutes later when his low effort from outside the area deflected off Zouhair Feddal and flew into the far corner.

Alaves had a huge chance to level just two minutes after the restart when Victor Camarasa skipped past Raphael Varane, but shot straight at Navas.

Madrid barely threatened in the second-half until the last 15 minutes when they finally put the game beyond Alaves’ reach.

Ronaldo was hauled down inside the penalty area from a corner, but saw his second spot-kick saved by Fernando Pacheco.

Morata again made his presence felt off the bench as he raced onto Marcelo’s through ball and lobbed the onrushing Pacheco to make it 3-1.

And Marcelo was involved again in the fourth as he and Ronaldo exchanged passes before the latter smashed home two minutes from time.

Earlier, Sevilla’s struggles away from home continued in a 1-1 draw at Sporting Gijon.

Sevilla snapped a 22-game winless streak on the road in their last away league game at Leganes and got off to the perfect start in Asturias when Luciano Vietto raced onto Wissam Ben Yedder’s flick-on to dink home his fourth goal of the season.

Sporting are now without a win in seven matches, but moved out of the relegation zone as Moi Gomez volleyed home Roberto Canella’s cross for a share of the points.

© 2016 AFP