BARCELONA, Spain — Cristiano Ronaldo scored four second-half goals to become the second all-time leading scorer in La Liga as Real Madrid routed Celta Vigo 7-1 on Saturday.
Ronaldo’s haul gave him 252 career goals according to the league, surpassing Telmo Zarra’s mark of 251 goals that had stood as a record until Barcelona star Lionel Messi passed that milestone in 2014. Messi’s hat trick in a 5-1 win at Rayo Vallecano on Thursday took his leading tally to 305.
After Pepe put Madrid ahead before halftime, Ronaldo scored with a long blast. He added another goal from a free kick, tapped in a short cross, and headed home a corner kick.
Jese Rodriguez and Gareth Bale completed the demolition of a Celta side that held its own before halftime but fell apart in the second half.
Besides surpassing Zarra’s mark for Athletic Bilbao from 1955, Ronaldo also passed Barcelona’s Luis Suarez as the league top scorer for the season. Ronaldo has 27 goals to Suarez’s 25.
Madrid remained in third place and a provisional nine points behind leader Barcelona, which visits Eibar on Sunday, when second-place Atletico Madrid also visits Valencia.
Disqualified from the Copa del Rey and its Liga title hopes all but gone, Madrid turns back to its most realistic chance to salvage the season when it hosts Roma on Tuesday in the Champions League round of 16, holding a 2-0 advantage.
"Ronaldo is one of a kind," Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. "I never scored four goals. It's important that he scores heading into the Champions League."
Elsewhere, Las Palmas ended fourth-place Villarreal's 14-round unbeaten streak with a 1-0 away win, dropping the host seven points behind Madrid. David Garcia's header on the half-hour mark helped the Canary Island club edge away from the relegation zone with a third consecutive victory.
Fifth-place Sevilla stayed winless on the road this season after conceding a late goal in a 1-1 draw at Getafe, which broke a streak of seven losses. Ever Banega's free kick put Sevilla ahead late, only for Emiliano Velazquez to level with four minutes left.
An own goal by Deportivo La Coruna's Alejando Arribas in the 89th gifted Malaga a 3-3 draw as the hosts remained winless in 12 rounds.
Madrid's big win over sixth-place Celta came at a perfect time, as Madrid was jeered by the same Santiago Bernabeu Stadium fans the previous weekend after a 1-0 loss to Atletico.
That defeat ended with Ronaldo criticizing his teammates, opening the first squad crisis that Zidane had to publicly quell.
"Nobody can doubt Cristiano," said Madrid forward Lucas Vazquez, who started along with 18-year-old striker Borja Mayoral in place of the injured Karim Benzema. "You have to congratulate him. Today there wasn't any friction and I didn't hear any jeers."
Defender Pepe headed the hosts in front in the 41st minute after a drab first half for Madrid that saw Celta's Iago Aspas hit the woodwork early.
But the second half was lopsided after Ronaldo looped an unstoppable long strike over goalkeeper Ruben Blanco and into the net. Earlier, a poor pass by Ronaldo earned him some whistles from the crowd, and instead of celebrating the impressive goal, he pointed to his ear while soaking up the applause.
Ronaldo curved a free kick over the wall to make it 3-0, tapped in another goal after Aspas hit on the break, and got his fourth goal with a header, a minute before Rodriguez scored.
Bale, who played his first minutes as a substitute since being injured in January, scored off the post.