A leap above the rest
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A rampant Cristiano Ronaldo scored his second hat-trick in four days and Karim Benzema netted a spectacular overhead kick to fire Real Madrid to a crushing 4-1 win at Ajax Amsterdam in Champions League Group D on Wednesday.
Chasing a 10th European title that has eluded them since 2002, Jose Mourinho's side opened a 2-0 lead against a disappointing Ajax with a goal either side of the break but gave the Dutch champions hope with some sloppy defending before Ronaldo struck twice in two minutes late on to kill the game.
It was the Portuguese forward's first Champions League treble and lifted him to 42 goals in 82 matches in Europe's elite club competition.
With Sunday's La Liga 'Clasico' at Barcelona looming, it also gave him the edge in his personal scoring duel with Barca's equally prolific forward Lionel Messi. Ronaldo, the last player to be named World Player of the Year before Messi won the last three, has 12 in all competitions compared with Messi's 10.
"It's very important for the next match to boost confidence," Ronaldo said. " The victory consolidated Real's lead at the top of Group D with six points from two matches.
In the other Group D game, Borussia Dortmund, whom Real visit in less than a month, have four points after Wednesday's 1-1 draw at Manchester City, with City on one point in third and Ajax on zero in fourth.
Mourinho sprung several surprises in his starting lineup at the Amsterdam arena, deploying little-used Brazil playmaker Kaka instead of Mesut Ozil and Luka Modric.
In only his second appearance this season, Kaka showed some of the form that won him the World Player award in 2007, tormenting the home defence and linking up well with Ronaldo and Benzema.
Real dominated the first period but wasted a host of chances before Ronaldo pounced on a loose ball to score from close range in the 42nd minute.