At the Santiago Bernabeu, It was appropriate that Cristiano was resurrected on Easter Sunday. Real Madrid needed a boost after falling four points behind Barcelona in the Clasico last month and, led by an insatiable Ronaldo, the Blancos gave their fans reasons to believe that winning La Liga may be possible after all.
Nowhere near their best in 2015, Madrid had seen a four-point league cut to a four-point deficit in the space of just three weeks in March. After some poor performances collectively and individually this year, there were many with a point to prove.
Ronaldo was one of them. The Portuguese scored and looked livelier in the 2-1 Clasico loss at Camp Nou on March 22, but hit the headlines for the wrong reasons again as he was caught on camera making an obscene gesture to referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz.
Gareth Bale was another. The Welsh winger was hailed for his superb showing in his country’s recent 3-0 win in Israel, but has largely disappointed for his club this term as the BBC trident has failed to ignite the capital club since the winter break.
Bale set Madrid on their way with the opening goal in this match. An eight-minute first-half hat-trick from Ronaldo – the quickest-ever Liga treble by a non-Spanish Madrid player – meant Ancelotti’s slow starters were four up at the break.
This was much more to follow and Real ran riot in the second half as Ronaldo added another before Benzema scored two himself to make it 7-0 with all the goals netted by the famed forward line.
It finished 9-1 as Cristiano converted his fifth of the night – the first time he has achieved that feat in his career – to wrap up a morale-boosting victory.
“He has improved as the team have improved,” Ancelotti said of Ronaldo afterwards. “It’s the first time he has scored five for Real Madrid. That’s good for him and for the team.”
Indeed it is. Madrid had only scored eight in their previous eight league matches and managed nine in one on Sunday. They were aided by Granada’s goalkeeper Oier Olazabal and some dreadful defending by the vistors – but also by Luka Modric and James Rodriguez.
Modric has been back for a few weeks and Real had already improved following the Croat’s comeback from injury, but the return of the Colombian midfielder made for a much more fluid midfield in this match and the forwards reaped the benefits.
“Modric is decisive in his movement and with the speed with which he moves the ball around,” Ancelotti said afterwards. “He has the ability to switch the play and open up the pitch to the wings with hs football.”
And on James’ return from injury, the Italian added: “His game was very good. He didn’t look like he had been out for two months. He played with intensity, with quality – and he helped us. His ideas improve us in attack.”
With those two back Madrid suddenly look like a much more formidable force, although La Liga remains out of their hands and there is still plenty of work ahead if they are to have any chance of overhauling Barca – four points clear again after beating Celta Vigo 1-0 later on Sunday.
“I would change ths 9-1 win for nine 1-0 wins,” Ancelotti admitted. “But the important thing is that we played how we wanted to today.”
He hasn’t been able to say that for quite some time. But thanks to Modric and James, the BBC is switched on again and with Ronaldo resurrected, a miracle recovery may still be within reach over the next couple of months