Return of Ronaldo's Riverdance feet leads Harry's heroes a merry dance
Published 06/04/2011 | 05:00
A tale of two £80m players may have been hijacked by an on-loan beanpole who was last seen on Saturday playing like an absolute pauper but even if Emmanuel Adebayor's two headers stole the major headlines, it takes more than that to steal the whole princely show from Cristiano Ronaldo.
Harry Redknapp had reckoned that having Gareth Bale back in business here had been like seeing the return of £80m worth of flying footballer.
"He was like Carl Lewis in training," he marvelled. If that is the case, then Jose Mourinho must have felt like his own side had been bolstered by the comeback of Usain Bolt. Look and behold an authentic £80m player.
Long gone are the days when Ronaldo seemed like a flat-track bully. Big games make him shimmer. There were times when he fell into his old habits of trying to win the game on his own, but, even if he was not the main executioner, he set the game's agenda here, he dominated proceedings as only great players can.
There was never really any doubt about Ronaldo's return, even if Mourinho was content to toss up the possibility of his absence as the main plank of his familiar mind games. Really, it was not a gamble playing him; it felt an absolute necessity.
His entrance was suitably spectacular. He sprinted on for the warm-up, powered toward the 'D' at full pelt and unleashed a 35-yard shot into the corner of an empty net.
Pointlessly spectacular, but, just in case anyone was watching, he seemed to be making a declaration of intent.
Mourinho had insisted that Madrid could cope without him, but that was shown up as a considerable fib on Saturday night when, bereft of his dynamism and scent for goal, everyone was reminded of a simple fact here: that is, life is much easier when CR7 is around.
When Ronaldo plays, on average he will either score or lay on at least one goal during the match and, statistically, Madrid's chances of winning are raised by 15 per cent. Here, we could see why.
Ronaldo's greatness lies as much as anything in his own supreme self-confidence, in his unimpeachable belief in his own ability so he is never, ever afraid to have a go. It is very infectious. Hence, he has had far more goal attempts than anyone else in the competition -- 37 going into last night's game, it felt like 50 coming out of it. If that means far more misses too -- 19 before the match -- so be it.
From the moment that Rafael Van der Vaart was sluggishly robbed by Mesut Ozil, who found Ronaldo with a neat through ball, persuading his mate to shoot with preposterous ambition, but pretty tamely from about 30 yards, his intentions were crystal clear.
In contrast to Ronaldo's early ebullience, Bale, initially switched to the right after the loss of Aaron Lennon just before kick-off, seemed lost until being asked to rediscover his natural habitat.
We are talking of a modest assassin; unlike Ronaldo, he doesn't brandish his talent, along with his ego, like a peacock.
But what a talent, even if you want to quibble at Redknapp's £80m estimation. It was a good job Mourinho, alert to the sort of havoc the man can wreak down that left flank, had Xabi Alonso primed to shoot across and cover when Bale finally sprang into action midway through the first half, becoming Spurs most effective outlet.
The move, minutes later, when Bale took Michael Dawson's through ball on his chest at full pace, weaved towards goal, charged past Sergio 'Tarzan' Ramos -- not the easiest feat -- and fired into the side netting irresistibly brought back memories of his tours de force against Inter.
Pepe could not cope with his speed, being booked for a late challenge, and Redknapp was apoplectic as he complained to the referee that Ramos should have joined him in the book after cynically taking out the Welshman.
Meanwhile, Ronaldo, roaming menacingly all over the pitch, simply surged on, especially now back in harness with his rampaging partner in left-wing larceny, Marcelo.
He did his infernal Riverdance routine on a hypnotised Vedran Corluka and earned a free-kick; he kayoed William Gallas with a thunderbolt; he lashed one just wide, and deflected another just over; his cross handed Adebayor his second on a plate, so that you could hardly believe the Togolese was the man who struggled so woefully in Saturday's defeat against Gijon.
Indeed, he did everything -- and then he capped it with the inevitable glorious goal. (©Daily Telegraph, London)