Maiden Ronaldo hat-trick keeps Real on Barca's heels

MADRID, May 5, 2010 (AFP) - Cristiano Ronaldo netted his first ever hat-trick for Real Madrid to move onto 25 goals of the season as Real came from behind to win 4-1 at Real Mallorca on Wednesday to move a point behind Barcelona and ensure the title race goes down to the wire.

Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring against Mallorca on May 5, 2010. AFP PHOTO

Ronaldo, the world's most expensive player, seems to be on a personal mission to win the title for his side in his debut season and followed up his decisive late winner against Osasuna on Sunday with a timely treble to keep his side firmly in the title race with two games to go.

"I have to thank my team-mates for helping me to settle and score so many goals," said Ronaldo. "There was a bit of pressure with Barcelona winning but we scored three in the second half to win the match.

"We hope Barcelona drop points at Sevilla and all we can do is beat (Athletic) Bilbao at home. We hope and really want to be champions."

Aritz Aduriz had put Champions League hopefuls Mallorca into a 16th-minute lead but Ronaldo took advantage of a defensive mix-up to equalise ten minutes later and struck again on 57 minutes.

A fine mazy run and finish on 72 minutes capped his first Real hat-trick and his haul of 25 goals is all the more impressive when one considers he was out injured for two months.

A Gonzalo Higuain chip completed the scoring on 81 minutes and the Argentine has 26 goals for the season, five behind Barcelona's Lionel Messi on 31.

With two games left, champions Barca, 4-1 winners over Tenerife at Camp Nou on Tuesday, hold a slender one-point lead over Real and have a tough trip to Sevilla on Saturday while Madrid are at home to Athletic Bilbao.

This was a ninth away win for Real as they became only the third team to win at Mallorca's fortress Ono stadium and dent their Champions League hopes.

Mallorca surrender fourth place to Sevilla who are a point ahead after thrashing Racing Santander 5-1 on Wednesday and take on Barcelona at home on Saturday.

Barcelona's tally of 93 points is the most any team has chalked up in a league of 20 or 22 teams and there are still two games to play although it may not be enough with Real breathing down their necks.

With five minutes gone Mallorca had the ball in the net but Uruguayan winger Gonzalo Castro looked up in dismay to see his effort had been ruled out for a marginal offside.

Real looked shaky and they conceded from a corner on 16 minutes with Victor arriving at the back post to volley into the danger area and Aduriz was on hand to convert his 12th goal of the campaign.

However, the lead was short-lived and predictably it was Ronaldo who provided the equaliser.

The former Manchester United man used his pace to race onto a long diagonal ball over the top and arrived just before the advancing goalkeeper Dudu Aouate and managed to lob the ball high into the net before colliding with the Israeli custodian.

Real goalkeeper Iker Casillas had to make two saves to deny Aduriz and Castro inside two minutes and the visitors were fortunate to go in 1-1 at the break.

Madrid stepped up their game after the interval and Ronaldo created a great chance for strike partner Higuain who fluffed his lines by shooting wide.

The Portuguese star showed the Argentine how to do it on 57 minutes controlling Sergio Ramos's cross-field pass on his chest before poking the ball home for his second goal of the game.

Ronaldo then collected the ball and left two defenders in his wake before drilling in a low shot to cap a fantastic hat-trick.

It had been one-way traffic in the second half and Higuain produced a fine lob nine minutes from time for a fourth goal to rub salt in Mallorca's wounds and put the pressure back on Barcelona.

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