Another Champions League match, another Champions League hat-trick for Cristiano Ronaldo

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Real Madrid 3-0 Atlético Madrid

Ronaldo scores 42nd Real Madrid hat-trick

CNN  — 

He made sure to praise the efforts of the “team” but once again Cristiano Ronaldo fully warranted an admiring glance in the mirror.

Some people were writing him off – talking of his star being on the wane – but on Tuesday night he was proving them wrong on the biggest stage of all. Again.

Ronaldo’s match-winning display in a 3-0 win against Atlético Madrid saw the Portuguese become the first player in history to score back-to-back hat-tricks in the Champions League knockout stages.

Under the backdrop of a blood red Bernabeu skyline, the 32-year-old put Los Blancos’ local rival to the sword in the semifinal first leg, taking more shots (five) than the entire Atlético team (four), finishing the night with more Champions League goals to his name than Los Colchoneros have scored in the entire 114-year history of the club.

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An 86th minute sucker punch sealed his 42nd Real Madrid hat-trick, took him to 52 knockout goals, and all but booked Real Madrid’s passage to a third Champions League final in four years.

Ronaldo now has 103 goals in 138 Champions League appearances – a record made all the more remarkable by the fact the four-time Ballon d’Or winner didn’t score until his 30th game in the competition, against Debrecen in the 2005-06 season.

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Some call him selfish, but the Portugal talisman has more assists (31) than any player in Champions League history.

Some say he fails to perform when it counts, but he has more goals in the latter stages of Europe’s elite club competition than the group stages.

The truth is Ronaldo has refined his game with time, forsaking chalk on his boots and a role in the buildup for a greater goalscoring threat.

The former winger only had 50 touches of the ball on Tuesday night – less than half of midfield maestros Luka Modric and Toni Kroos.

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Ronaldo could conceivably go on playing for many more years, but he already leaves legendary Real Madrid goalscorers Raúl (323), Alfredo Di Stéfano (308) and Ferenc Puskás (242) in his wake.

As 80,000 fans returned home happy, Real manager Zinedine Zidane and captain Sergio Ramos both branded him “unique.”

This rugged, tough Atlético team had kept clean sheets in 59% of Champions League matches since Diego Simeone took charge, but now must hope for a miracle at the Vicente Calderón next Wednesday.