21>19! Benzema overtakes Ronaldo in league goals to continue hot streak

The Frenchman has been vital to his side over the last few weeks and now boasts more strikes than even his prolific ex-colleague

A scintillating hat-trick from Karim Benzema took the Real Madrid star past Cristiano Ronaldo in league goals scored for the season as he continued his incredible run in front of goal.

Benzema scored all three goals for the Blancos on Sunday as they downed Athletic 3-0 to consolidate their third-placed standing in La Liga.

Ten points ahead of nearest rivals Getafe, Zinedine Zidane’s men now seem destined to repeat their 2017-18 finish with just five games remaining.

Zidane’s return has helped revitalise a struggling squad; but perhaps no single player has felt the benefits more than his compatriot, who has exploded into form at the end of the season.

Benzema now has 21 Liga goals, more even than former strike partner Ronaldo, who has netted 19 so far in his first Serie A season with Juventus.

The tally also marks a huge improvement on the player’s difficult 2017-18 campaign, where he managed just five in 31 Liga appearances; and is also just the third time he has passed the 20-goal mark in Spain’s top flight.

It is not just in the total that he has overtaken the five-time Ballon d’Or winner, moreover.

Ronaldo is known for his heading prowess, but with 11 scored in that fashion in all competitions Benzema has more than the Portuguese or any other player in Europe’s top leagues.

Amazingly, he has also netted all of Madrid’s last eight league goals to marshal the Merengue through a difficult time following a second change in management in the current term.

Athletic, whose hopes of making the Europa League placings took a bit hit thanks to Sunday’s reverse, are a particularly favoured victim of the former France striker.

The Basques have conceded no less than 11 to Benzema, more than any other Liga side since he arrived in the Spanish capital from Lyon in 2009.

He has now scored in five consecutive Primera games, his best run since February 2016.

Sunday’s win failed to move Madrid closer to front-runners Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, after both rivals recorded their own victories the previous day over Real Sociedad and Eibar respectively.

The Blancos remain 13 points shy of Ernesto Valverde’s men and four behind their city rivals, with their next Liga run-out scheduled for Wednesday away to Getafe.