Real Madrid CF put on a UEFA Champions League masterclass with a thumping round of 16 first-leg victory over FC Schalke 04 in which Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo all scored twice.
The in-form Bundesliga hosts were quickly exposed by the Spanish team's quality as first-half strikes from Benzema and Bale set the tone for a one-sided affair. Ronaldo took his campaign total to 11 during a second period in which Benzema and Bale also notched their second goals. Former Madrid forward Klaas-Jan Huntelaar volleyed a spectacular consolation in added time, but it was largely irrelevant as Carlo Ancelotti's men romped to only their second win on German soil and also became the first away side to hit six in the UEFA Champions League knockout stage.
Inspired by the occasion, the vociferous home fans were almost rewarded with a surprise opener as returning captain Benedikt Höwedes headed an early corner wide. Madrid soon began to dominate, though, and the pressure told on 13 minutes when Ronaldo's attempted flick to Bale fell kindly for Benzema, who fired beyond Ralf Fährmann.
The Royal Blues' response was admirable, both in the stands and on the pitch. Julian Draxler, making his first start since returning from injury, might have equalised when he met Jefferson Farfán's cross, but Iker Casillas made a fine stop and Max Meyer was unable to keep the rebound down. Yet in spite of Schalke's determined efforts, Madrid's class was evident.
Bale, full of confidence after his breathtaking strike against Elche CF at the weekend, showed fast footwork to dodge three challenges before poking in off the near post to double the advantage.
The contest could easily have been over by the break but Ronaldo was denied by the post and two fine Fährmann saves. There was no resisting the FIFA Ballon d'Or winner after the restart, though, as he tricked his way past Joel Matip with a string of stepovers before unleashing a searing finish into the far corner – drawing him level with Paris Saint-Germain's Zlatan Ibrahimović as the competition's top scorer.
An earlier Kevin-Prince Boateng effort at the other end notwithstanding, Madrid were now in cruise control and there was an inevitability about Benzema's second of the game after a slick exchange with Ronaldo.
Bale slotted in his own second on 69 minutes as Madrid stretched their lead yet further. Not to be outdone, Ronaldo contributed another to leave Schalke, despite Huntelaar's thunderous late drive, looking ominously ahead to the second leg in Spain on 18 March.