Merel van Dongen, what have you done?!

The Dutch defender scored a hat-trick in Mexico, including two screamers from way outside the box. A madness.

Merel van Dongen, what have you done?!
Merel van Dongen with the match ball after scoring her hat-trick for Rayadas in the 5-0 drubbing of Merel van Dongen with the match ball after scoring her hat-trick for Monterrey | Courtesy of Rayadas

Mexico’s LigaMX Femenil has a reputation for being a shooter’s league.

Just like the stars race across a clear sky at night, phenomenal long-distance strikes sizzle and bang from the boots of the players in Mexico. It’s only natural.

Out there, no spot on the pitch is too unlikely to have a go from. No net is safe from the threat of a thundering ball. Take that xG.

Usually, these types of goals can be reserved for players who have grown up in Mexico, or Central and South America. Perhaps developing a penchant for ‘the audacious’ in their football upbringing.

But no. There is evidence the phenomenon is contagious. Merely step foot in LigaMX Femenil and you will be indoctrinated.

On Thursday night, left-sided Dutch centreback Merel van Dongen — who signed for Monterrey club Rayadas on loan in January — scored not one but two long-range efforts in her team’s 5-0 win over Cruz Azul.

Those strikes came either side of another technically brilliant hit on the half-volley from 10 yards out, after a corner kick hadn’t been dealt with.

A stunning first career hat-trick for the Netherlands international who had only managed four goals in her previous three seasons combined before this match.

Since 2015, Van Dongen has scored only two goals for her country in 63 appearances. She netted six times in 71 league appearances for Atletico Madrid during a three-and-a-half-year spell with the Spanish club beginning in 2020.

Goals are not her bread and butter. Nor is shooting with a tiny glimpse of goal. This is understandable. A central defender, most of her goals have come from set pieces. Either when winning the first ball aerially, or cleaning up a second ball chance on the ground.

[Watch Van Dongen goals below at 3:26 — 7:15 — 8:22]

What was going through Van Dongen’s head when she decided to hit the shot for the first goal, we’ll never truly now. She was just has shocked and speechless as we were with the action.

“It’s incredible, no? I just don’t know what I was thinking,” the beaming Dutchwoman told LigaMX Femenil’s social media channel after the match.

“We did everything we could in the 90 minutes, 5-0 is brilliant. I hope people don’t get used to that. I am a defender, I want to score, but at the end of it all its more important that I keep the clean sheet. Hopefully, we see more of that.”

You absolutely will not find a better strike of the ball this week. The way the ball cuts out to the left, straightens, rises and rises, holds its trajectory before then finally dipping just below the bar and in. It’s an artistic masterpiece.

Enemies of beautiful football will point the finger at Cruz Azul goalkeeper Leticia Rodrigues, who is a yard off her line. Even with a centreback 45 yards out from goal, perhaps she should’ve known better.

Again, though. It’s not egregious positioning. If the speed of the ball wasn’t so rapid, and the movement in the air not so swervy, then she would’ve positioned herself in an okay spot to make a save. But the ball moves so fast, and jutters away from her and into the top corner.

As much as we like to delight in Van Dongen’s euphoric reaction — and the viewers’ jaws dropping around the world; there is something poetic about Rodrigues’ stiff furrowed brow and perturbed expression after the ball goes in. Oof.

All of this to the soundtrack of the Monterrey fans’ limbs and lungs at the Estadio BBVA.

Any benefit of the doubt for Rodrigues’ role in van Dongen’s hat-trick was likely wiped out when the Dutch defender netted her hatrick in the 77th minute from 30 yards.

Again van Dongen was allowed to creep up the pitch, with absolutely no Azul player closing her down or discouraging the shot. More space than a newly built storage unit in on the surface of the planet Mars.

Still, a wicked hit. A moving ball. This time, Rodrigues is acrobatic enough to get a paw on the shot. But not enough of a paw to change the ball’s final destination.

In the grand schemes of things, the big win moved Rayadas to top of the fledgling LigaMX table. With four wins from five matches under new head coach Amelia Valverde.

It also announced van Dongen in quite spectacular fashion to her new home fans and the Mexican in league in general. Next time, close her down.

But in the micro level it was a moment of footballing disbelief. A hat-trick for a centreback? With two of the goals being struck from way beyond the penalty box? Enjoy it. Revel in it. And by all means, pay attention.

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