Real Madrid put four goals past Malaga to top La Liga

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Cristiano Ronaldo hit a hat-trick as Real Madrid swept aside Malaga 4-0 with a first-half blitz to go top of the Spain La Liga table on Saturday.

It was a battle between the newly rich Malaga, who invested heavily in the summer as they aim for a place in Europe, and the old order, but it turned into a mismatch as Real cruised to victory.

Gonzalo Higuain, who has hit two hat-tricks in his last two games for Real, as well as another in between for Argentina, sent the visitors on their way after 10 minutes before Ronaldo stole the show with three goals in 15 minutes.

He side-footed home an Angel di Maria cross and then fired in from the edge of the area before completing his hat-trick with an acrobatic flick from close range. Former Real striker Ruud van Nistelrooy was a surprise exclusion from the Malaga starting XI but he would have found it difficult to make a difference anyway as Real ran riot and the Malaga strikers saw little of the ball.

After the break Real relaxed and Malaga were able to exert themselves more but with a four-goal deficit, the game was already won.

Joaquin Sanchez and Seba Fernandez both hit the woodwork for the home side but they were unable to manage even a consolation.

Real lead the La Liga table with 19 points but Barcelona can re-take top spot later on Saturday when they face Sevilla.

Barca can expect a difficult game but they have home advantage and a defence that appears a lot more solid after a shaky start to the campaign.

They are now looking for their sixth straight clean sheet, which would be a new record for the club.

“We are doing very well at the back, winning the ball back quickly and pressing hard,” said goalkeeper Victor Valdes.

“The key is to win against Sevilla but I am aware of the record because all the media is talking about it.”

Bottom side Sporting Gijon finally gave themselves reason to cheer with a 2-0 win over Granada, although they remain a point adrift in the table.

Sporting had picked up just one point from seven games going into their clash with Granada, who are another early favourite for the drop, but they set off at a lightning pace.

David Barral pounced in the box to put Sporting ahead with five minutes gone and while Alexandre Geijo saw a shot come back off the post for Granada, the home side wrapped up the win before half-time through Andre Castro.

A Sergio Garcia strike mid-way through the second half gave Espanyol a 1-0 win away to Racing Santander that takes them up to eighth in the table, while Racing are still looking for their first win.

Spanish La Liga results:

Racing Santander 0 Espanyol 1
Sporting Gijon 2 Grenada 0
Malaga 0 Real Madrid 4
Barcelona 0 Sevilla 0

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