MADRID - Cristiano Ronaldo kept up his remarkable run of goals netting a hat-trick as Real Madrid crushed Real Sociedad 5-1 at the Bernabeu on Saturday.
The prolific Portugal forward took his La Liga tally to 16 goals from 13 games, adding to his top scorer status in the Champions League where he has eight from four matches.
One of the favourites for the FIFA World Player of the Year award, to be announced in January, Ronaldo has now scored 28 goals in 20 games for club and country this term.
"Ronaldo has a level from another world," Real coach Carlo Ancelotti told a news conference. "He makes scoring look so incredibly easy. It's difficult to find words to describe him."
Karim Benzema and Sami Khedira also scored as Real rattled in four before halftime and climbed to 31 points in third place, two behind city rivals Atletico Madrid, who visit promoted Villarreal on Sunday (1800 GMT).
Unbeaten leaders Barcelona have 34 points and visit struggling Real Betis in Sunday's late game (2000 GMT).
Ancelotti appears to have settled on a striking trio of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo, a frontline dubbed 'The BBC' in the local media, and their devastating pace tore apart the Basque visitors in the first half.
"We played a great game, especially in the first half," Ronaldo told broadcaster Canal Plus.
"I am very pleased because everything is going well. The team is starting to find a style of play and we are achieving our objectives."
Asked about his chances of winning a second Ballon d'Or to add to the one he lifted in 2008, Ronaldo said: "I do my talking on the pitch."
Ronaldo had already struck the crossbar when he notched the opener in the 12th minute.
A floated cross from Benzema found him unmarked at the back post, and the Portuguese forward netted from a tight angle.
Ronaldo returned the favour soon after, crossing low for the Frenchman to sidefoot home the second in the 18th. He then won a penalty for the third goal when Sociedad's Markel Bergara inadvertently handled as he slid in for a tackle in the area.
The spot kick was converted as, for the fourth game in a row against Sociedad at the Bernabeu, Ronaldo netted a double.
Bale, who missed two good chances, then laid on the fourth for Khedira in the 36th minute with a first-time pass.
French winger Antoine Griezmann pulled one back for the visitors with a neat lob in the 61st but, as Real's backline creaked, Ronaldo added a fifth to end any thoughts of the sort of defensive meltdown that has marred their recent league games.
The Portuguese curled a freekick over the wall past a stationary Claudio Bravo in the 76th minute for his 23rd hat-trick in four years with Real, and then missed a sitter in the closing stages when he sidefooted wide with only the keeper to beat.
Sociedad, who had taken 10 points from their previous four La Liga games and held Manchester United to a 0-0 draw in the Champions League during the week, are seventh with 17 points.
Athletic Bilbao preserved their unbeaten home record and climbed to fifth on 23 points after a 2-1 comeback win at home to Levante.
Substitute Mikel Rico levelled with a volley in the 72nd minute and another substitute, Aritz Aduriz, glanced in a header for the winner in the 84th.
Aduriz's night was spoiled, however, when he was sent off at the end after an incident involving Levante's Simao Mate.
Getafe are sixth with 20 points after being held 1-1 at home by promoted Elche, Richmond Boakye cancelling out Pedro Leon's first-half strike for the hosts.
Rayo Vallecano hauled themselves off the foot of the standings with a 2-0 win at Celta Vigo, goals from Jonathan Viera and Joaquin Larrivey moving Paco Jemez's side to 17th with 12 points.