Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cristiano Ronaldo come face-to-face next month when Sweden meet Portugal in a World Cup playoff and they sharpened their claws with six goals between them on a thrilling night of Champions League action on Wednesday.
Ibrahimovic joined the select band of players to score four Champions League goals in one match as Paris St Germain won 5-0 at Anderlecht to consolidate their place at the top of Group C with a third straight win.
Ronaldo struck both goals for Real Madrid, one from the penalty spot, as they posted a 2-1 win over Juventus to also move to nine points in Group B.
Swede Ibrahimovic, who scored all four for Sweden nearly a year ago in a 4-2 friendly win over England, wrapped up a 19-minute hat-trick with a stunning right-foot 25-metre thunderbolt before adding a fourth goal after the break.
That took his tally to 10 goals in five games for club and country and also put him 10th place on the all-time Champions League scoring list. Edinson Cavani scored PSG’s other goal.
The French champions, who have spent millions on top players in the last two years, proved they can be serious candidates for the competition with their biggest ever away win in Europe, virtually eliminating Anderlecht in the process.
“I feel good,” Ibrahimovic said afterwards.
“This year we are stronger. We have stronger players and we could win this competition, but rememnber the further you go the harder it gets.”
Ronaldo took his tally to seven goals in three Champions League matches this season and is now third on the list of all-time scorers with 57 goals from 95 matches in the competition proper behind Raul (71) and Lionel Messi (63).
Juventus finished with 10 men after Giorgio Chiellini was sent off early in the second half after brushing a rather theatrical Ronaldo with his arm.
One hundred million euro man Gareth Bale was again a substitute, replacing Karim Benzema with just over 20 minutes left.
“We have taken a very important step towards securing qualification,” Real captain Iker Casillas said on UEFA.com.
“It wasn’t easy but we have taken the first step, getting nine points from three matches. “We have to go to Turin now and at least avoid defeat.”
Ibrahimovic and Ronaldo were not the only top forwards amongst the goals on a night when 27 hit the net in the eight matches. Franck Ribery scored twice for European champions Bayern Munich in a 5-0 win against Czech champions Viktoria Plzen to continue their 100 percent start to Group D.
Bayern, whose last encounter with Plzen was back in 1971 and ended in a 7-1 aggregate win, set a frantic early pace and European Footballer of the Year Ribery gave them a deserved 25th-minute lead from the spot.
David Alaba doubled the lead 12 minutes later with a low drive and Ribery got another with a superb chip in the second half. Bastian Schweinsteiger added the fourth three minutes later and Mario Goetze completed the scoring in stoppage time.
There was also a big win for Bayern’s Bundesliga rivals Bayer Leverkusen who thumped Shakhtar Donetsk 4-0 with Stefan Kiessling putting last weekend’s “phantom goal” behind him with two genuine efforts that could not be doubted.
Kiessling’s header against Hoffenheim on Friday was counted as a goal even though it went in through the side netting, but there was no question about his 22nd minute header that opened the scoring against the Ukrainians.
Simon Rolfes scored from the spot and Bundesliga top scorer Sidney Sam made it 3-0 after 57 minutes before Kiessling walked the ball home 18 minutes from time to seal the win.
Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero was another to get two as his side came from behind in Group D to win 2-1 at CSKA Moscow. Galatasaray beat FC Copenhagen 3-1 to climb off the bottom of Group B with Didier Drogba on target.
However the night was marred by racist chanting from the home fans directed at City’s powerful midfield trojan Yaya Toure.
The affable Ivorian told Sky afterwards: “It was very disappointing and UEFA has to do something about it. I think they should, that would be very nice.”
The lowest scoring win was at Old Trafford where Manchester United beat Real Sociedad 1-0 after Real defender Inigo Martinez scored an own goal in the second minute which was enough to lift United to top spot in Group A.
Benfica and Olympiakos ended 1-1 in the only draw of the night played out on a quagmire of a pitch in Lisbon. The result left them both on four points, five behind Group C leaders PSG.