Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Joy of Six: classiest hat-tricks

3) Ronaldo, Man Utd 4-3 Real Madrid, Champions League quarter-final, April 23 2003

Standing ovations for Ronaldo are the norm at Old Trafford these days, but this one came before anyone had heard of Cristiano. If the game itself is grossly overrated (for all the giddiness of the finale, there was never any danger of United overturning a 3-1 first-leg deficit from the moment they went 2-1 down just after half-time), Ronaldo's hat-trick deserves every plaudit.

For the first goal he raced onto a searching pass from Guti and surprised Fabien Barthez with an early, near-post bullet. The second was an open goal, but only after some gloriously galáctican football, a spell of 30 seconds in which Real's matadors had tormented, almost goaded, a wilting United. If Ronaldo needed a lot of help from his friends for that one, the third was all his own work: a booming 25-yarder that put Real 3-2 ahead and into the semi-finals. RS

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