Thursday 26 April 2018

Ronaldo equals Messi record as Madrid gain Dortmund revenge

Real Madrid 3 Borussia Dortmund 0

Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring against Borussia Dortmund with his Real Madrid team-mates
Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring against Borussia Dortmund with his Real Madrid team-mates
Gareth Bale scores the opening goal for Real Madrid in their UEFA Champions League quarter-final first-leg match against Borussia Dortmund at the Santiago Bernabeu
Real Madrid's Gareth Bale skips past Borussia Dortmund defender Mats Hummels
Gareth Bale beats Erik Durm to a header during Real Madrid's 3-1 win over Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League quarter-final first-leg match at the Santiago Bernabeu

Oliver Brown

Seventy thousand disciples of Real Madrid showed their appreciation for Cristiano Ronaldo with a gesture akin to worship.

Bowing reverentially, en masse, they turned the Santiago Bernabeu into a personal tribute night for their peerless No 7 as he etched yet another milestone in the all-white strip with a 14th Champions League goal this season to equal Lionel Messi's record for a single campaign.

While Gareth Bale left his own imprint upon the occasion with a fine strike, the evening, just like the whole season, belonged to a Portuguese peacock now in full glorious plumage.

As a collective, too, Real are on a formidable tear as they home in on their ultimate target of 'La Decima,' their name for the 10th European Cup title that has eluded them since Zinedine Zidane's Glasgow wonder goal in 2002.

Bale wasted no time in sustaining his upsurge in form of late, rushing on to Daniel Carvajal's brilliantly weighted pass before toe-poking his finish expertly under goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller after only three minutes.

The early celebrations did not, as it turned out, breed complacency. Bale was timing his runs to perfection, as in one mesmeric sequence where he cut inside to the centre to unleash Ronaldo, who zipped right, then left, before finally being dispossessed by Lukasz Piszczek, only for Dortmund to gift the ball straight back to Isco, duly clipping it over to Bale, whose strike was adjudged offside.

Impatiently and with his signature strut, Ronaldo waited to muscle in on the action. He almost did so when his viciously swerving free-kick, redolent of Roberto Carlos, had to be tipped over by Weidenfeller.

Instead it fell to Isco to spark the impetus once more. Straight from a Dortmund corner, Karim Benzema headed clear for Isco to surge forward. He laid the ball off to Ronaldo, then hared to the edge of the box to angle a low shot, rather limp, but wickedly accurate, to elude Weidenfeller's desperate lunge.

Belatedly, Dortmund began to look more threatening, as Marco Reus whipped in a devilish ball that cannoned off Sergio Ramos, but they continued to look susceptible to Real's lightning counterattacks.

One could tell, too, that Bale was desperate for a second, latching on to a fine through ball from Ronaldo before fashioning a cultured shot which Weidenfeller blocked with his foot.

As the rain, which had been falling all day in the Spanish capital, intensified a touch, so Ronaldo came to the boil. Thrusting his shoulders back, stepping up the number of step-overs, he broke through when Dortmund squandered possession too generously in defence, inviting Isco to slide in a sumptuous pass that Ronaldo could not help but roll past poor Weidenfeller with the cheekiest of ease.

Benzema was Real's only missing link in attack and almost corrected that when the lively Daniel Carvajal teed him up for a shot that he lashed first time, albeit straight at Dortmund's besieged goalkeeper.

Ancelotti appeared to have one eye on the semi-finals with only an hour gone, bringing on Asier Illarramendi for the brilliant Isco, who left to a standing ovation.

The reception was not nearly so loud, though, as that reserved for Ronaldo when he at last made way for Casemiro. Supporters of an all-white persuasion realise acutely that he could be the one, in six weeks' time, to unlock that door to La Decima. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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