Real Madrid struggled to find their footing in the opening stages of the Champions League quarterfinal first leg against Bayern Munich at Allianz Arena on Wednesday.
Having fallen behind to Arturo Vidal’s thumping header and almost going two goals down as the Chilean went from hero to zero to send the penalty kick high over the bar, Los Blancos needed to reset and change their approach after the interval.
Man of the Hour
Disputed leader of Zinedine Zidane’s team and a man who is reportedly being targeted by his own teammates in an unbelievable transfer story which was doing rounds over the past few days, Cristiano Ronaldo, rose up to the occasion to singlehandedly help his side overcome a big challenge against the Bavarian side.
The Portuguese first latched on Dani Carvajal’s wonderful assist from the right to fire a precise shot into the back on Manuel Neuer’s net and make sure his team go the much-needed parity, before using his football intelligence to force Javi Martinez into expelling himself from the match with the second yellow card at the hour mark.
The Spanish defender was reckless with his high challenge, but Ronaldo was wiser to take advantage of it and fall on the ground even though he had enough momentum in his legs to go on with the attack.
And this particular moment is likely to cause plenty of hate towards the Real Madrid superstar with heavy-hearted fans arguing that the Portuguese would use any chance he gets to fall down and they may have a point, but is Ronaldo wrong to do so?
Having skillfully elicited the red card for Bayern defender, Cristiano Ronaldo went on to relieve his team of great pressure as he scored 15 minutes later to overturn the result completely and get his team a valuable win in the end.
With an important win in the bag, Real Madrid are now priced at 2/1 to lift the coveted trophy and reclaim the Champions League title. As Los Blancos look towards becoming the first team in history to defend their European throne, it is Cristiano Ronaldo who is expected to lead the way.
Thriving in Defiance
Ronaldo’s brace came at the best time possible for the player and for the team.
Two goals against Bayern Munich helped Cristiano Ronaldo reach the 100-goal mark in the European competitions, which he achieved by scoring after six-month draught. No other player has managed to do the same and Cristiano Ronaldo’s name will be forever written in the history books alongside the greatest names of the beautiful game he surpassed on his way to the throne.
Traditional contrarians and Cristiano Ronaldo’s doubters will once again be keen to diminish his feat by claiming he reached the mark mostly through penalties, and/or thanks to the fact he played more Champions League matches that Leo Messi and Raul trailing behind him, there is little point in trying to belittle his achievements which are nothing short of impressive.
Cristiano Ronaldo has been impressing with his professional demeanor this season, despite his form being in decline.
The Portuguese is very much aware the current campaign is far from the standards he set over the past few years and paltry 19 goals in La Liga season are low even by the standards of more average footballers.
Additionally, the Wednesday’s goals were Ronaldo’s first in the Champions League in 197 days and such a lengthy draught was sure to frustrate the perfectionist that he truly is.
The Best There Is
At 32 years of age, Cristiano Ronaldo is undoubtedly declining.
The Portuguese raised the bar too high for anyone to reach, but the same bar is slowly getting too far for him to stretch to as well even though his levels of performances are way above of the majority of other European footballers.
His pace and power are not at the same level anymore, his shot losing the surgical precision.
Still his influence is growing as other aspects of his game decline. The impact we are talking about was visible as he jumped up and down the touchline alongside Portugal head coach Fernando Santos in the final match of the Euro 2016 against France. The same impact was on display once again last night as he took responsibility when all around his failed to do so.
You can dispute his overly confident appearance as much as you like, but the grit and determination, the insatiable hunger for success and drive that keeps pushing him forward have made him what he is today.
The best in history.
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