MADRID (AFP) – Cristiano Ronaldo struck four times to set a new record for goals scored in the Champions League group stage as Real Madrid also equalled the record victory in the competition with an 8-0 mauling of Malmo on Tuesday.
Troubled French striker Karim Benzema also scored his first hat-trick for five years, whilst Mateo Kovacic added his first goal for the Spanish giants.
The scoreline equalled Liverpool’s 8-0 thrashing of Besiktas in November 2007.
Ronaldo’s tally of 11 goals in the group stages surpasses the previous record of nine held by himself in 2013/14 and Luiz Adriano for Shakhtar Donetsk last season.
With top spot in Group A already assured, Madrid boss Rafael Benitez took the chance to rest some of his stars including Gareth Bale, but Madrid were still in a different league to a Malmo side that ended their domestic season over five weeks ago.
Benzema will learn on Thursday if he is to be suspended from the French national team due to his alleged involvement in a blackmail scandal involving a sex tape of international teammate Mathieu Valbuena.
However, he remains in fine form for Madrid as he scored his first hat-trick since another 8-0 Real win over Levante in December 2010 to take his tally to five in his last two games.
The opener arrived on 12 minutes when Benzema was on hand to sweep home into an empty net after Isco’s initial effort had been cleared off the line.
Poor defending allowed Benzema to double the hosts’ advantage midway through the first-half as he headed in unmarked from Ronaldo’s cross.
Ronaldo then had two fierce efforts well saved by Malmo’s veteran goalkeeper Johan Wiland, but the 34-year-old was to blame when the World Player of the Year opened his account for the evening with a free-kick that bobbled into the far corner.
Unlike in recent matches when Madrid have eased off in the second-half after accumulating a comfortable half-time lead, Benitez’s men went for the kill after the break as they sensed history.
Ronaldo took advantage of a loose ball inside the area to make it 4-0 and then fired across Wiland into the far corner to register his record-breaking 10th goal of the group stage inside the first four minutes of the second-half.
Not content with 10, Ronaldo side-footed home Isco’s cross 10 minutes later for his 88th Champions League goal with all 11 in the group stage coming in just four matches as he failed to score in two games against Paris Saint-Germain.
Croatian international Kovacic smashed home his first Madrid goal since a big money move from Inter Milan to pile on the misery for Malmo coach Age Hareide in his final match in charge.
With the visitors clearly tiring, Madrid’s pressing teed up Benzema to continue putting his off-field troubles behind him with his 12th goal of the season.
Real could easily have gone on to set a new record as Wiland made a series of saves in the final 15 minutes and Denis Cheryshev clipped the post.
However, referee Daniele Orsato took pity on the visitors as he blew up for full-time without adding any stoppages as Madrid’s recovery since being thrashed 4-0 at home by Barcelona last month continued in fine style.