Karim Benzema was delighted to reflect on his "best performance" in a Real Madrid CF shirt after scoring his first hat-trick in nearly three years in the 4-0 Group G win over AJ Auxerre.
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Karim Benzema said he may have delivered his "best performance" in Real Madrid CF colours after a hat-trick from the French international fired the Merengues to a 4-0 win against AJ Auxerre.
Supplemented by Cristiano Ronaldo's second-half strike, Benzema's treble helped José Mourinho's side progress undefeated into the UEFA Champions League knockout stage with five wins from six Group G games. It was a moment of triumph that had the 22-year-old forward reflecting on his insertion into life in the Spanish capital.
"I knew when I came to a club like this – one considered by many as perhaps the best in the world – all the press would be watching me and talking about me," the former Olympique Lyonnais player said. "I've come through difficult moments since, but by working harder than ever things are beginning to improve."
Signed in the summer of 2009, Benzema managed eight goals in 27 Liga appearances in his first season at the Santiago Bernabéu. An exceptional Matchday 5 display away to AFC Ajax aside, he has struggled to find his best form under Mourinho this term.
"I needed a game like this to gain confidence and to feel like an important part of the team," the striker said after his first hat-trick since January 2008. "Every day I feel a little better and that's what I'm showing on the pitch. Obviously having scored three it's possible to say it was my best performance since coming here and for that I'm very happy."
Admitting he was "particularly satisfied" with the last of his three goals – an angled lob over goalkeeper Olivier Sorin in the 88th minute – Benzema was quick to praise his team-mates who, he said, "helped me immensely". "As a team we performed very well but on a personal level it's not every day you score a hat-trick so it is a very special moment for me," he went on.
Auxerre forward Roy Contout was feeling less enthusiastic after the defeat left the Ligue 1 club bottom of Group G. "It's difficult to leave here losing 4-0, especially after we came looking for a positive result," he told UEFA.com. "Although Madrid were superior we managed to create three or four good chances."
Despite exiting the tournament at the group stage, the 25-year-old acknowledged having learned valuable lessons along the way. "Playing in the Champions League has been an extraordinary experience for all of us, particularly competing against three very big teams in incredible stadiums. It's every player's goal to perform in this competition and we have learned a lot."