Watch: Cristiano Ronaldo scores hat trick for Real Madrid against Atletico in UCL semis
For a fourth straight season, Spanish capital rivals Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid meet in the Champions League knockout stage, and for a fourth straight season, it appears that Real will emerge victorious.
Real Madrid has beaten Atletico Madrid twice in the final in the last three years, sandwiching a quarterfinal matchup in 2015, and Cristiano Ronaldo's hat trick in the first leg of the semifinals on Tuesday has Real Madrid looking good again, after a 3-0 win at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.
While it was Ronaldo who carried Real Madrid during the match, the club's fans were in fine form at the start of it, with a stunning tifo display commemorating the club's Champions League successes (with a special nod to the two finals in which it topped Atletico).
On the field, Dani Carvajal came close to opening the scoring in the seventh minute, with the right back getting forward, working a combination with Isco and nearly outside-footing a close-range chance by Jan Oblak. The Atletico Madrid goalkeeper's save gave Karim Benzema a chance off the rebound, but the sequence was a bit too quick for the Frenchman to control the chance and steer it in goal.
The goal came soon after, though. Ronaldo headed home for his 101st career Champions League goal, with Casemiro's cross after a poor Atletico Madrid clearance setting up the Portuguese star in the 10th minute.
Real Madrid nearly made it 2-0 six minutes later. Raphael Varane's glancing header off a corner kick appeared earmarked for the bottom right-hand corner, but Oblak's full extension dive kept it out.
A minute later, Atletico carved out its best chance against the run of play, with Kevin Gameiro getting in behind the defense. Keylor Navas raced off his line and made a sensational, clean play to take the ball of Gameiro's foot and keep Real up 1-0.
Benzema was inches away from matching Emre Can's effort for Liverpool on Monday, blazing a sensational bicycle kick attempt over the bar in the 29th minute.
Real pressed throughout, earning seven corner kicks in the first half alone, but it couldn't add to Ronaldo's tally over the first 45. It was also dealt an injury blow when Carvajal had to come out after an injury suffered just before halftime. He was replaced by Nacho for the start of the second half.
After a more evenly played second half, Ronaldo tilted the scale in Real Madrid's favor even more in the 73rd minute. His clinical finish from almost 18 yards out doubled the lead, inching Real closer to the final stage.
Ronaldo capped his hat trick in the 86th minute from close range, punishing Atletico Madrid after a quick counter to make it 3-0 and remove most of the doubt from the series.
Ronaldo matched Lionel Messi's record of seven Champions League hat tricks with the feat and now has eight of Real Madrid's last nine goals in the competition.
Atletico Madrid will host the second leg next Wednesday at the Estadio Vicente Calderon with a massive hill to climb.