Wednesday 17 January 2018

Ronaldo puts end to 'drought' as Real edge near last eight

Schalke 04 0 Real Madrid 2

Real Madrid goalscorer Cristiano Ronaldo is challenged by Schalke 04 pair Joel Matip and Benedikt Hoewedes during their Champions League round-of-16 match clash at the Veltins-Arena. Photo: Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images
Real Madrid goalscorer Cristiano Ronaldo is challenged by Schalke 04 pair Joel Matip and Benedikt Hoewedes during their Champions League round-of-16 match clash at the Veltins-Arena. Photo: Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images
Real Madrid midfielder Lucas Silva competes for possession with Schalke 04's Maxim Choupo-Moting during their Champions League round-of-16 clash at the Veltins-Arena. Photo: Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images
Schalke 04's Dennis Aogo hits a free-kick only to see it headed away by Real Madrid defender Pepe during their Champions League round-of-16 clash at the Veltins-Arena. Photo: Dennis Grombkowski/Bongarts/Getty Images
Real Madrid's Gareth Bale controls the ball as and Schalke 04 defender Dennis Aogo looks on during their Champions League round-of-16 clash at the Veltins-Arena. Photo: AFP PHOTO / ODD ANDERSENODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images
Cristiano Ronaldo heads the ball over Schalke 04 goalkeeper Timon Wellenreuther to score Real Madrid's opening goal in their Champions League round-of-16 clash at the Veltins-Arena. Photo: Dennis Grombkowski/Bongarts/Getty Images
Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema is held back by Schalke 04's Roman Neustaedter during their Champions League round-of-16 clash at the Veltins-Arena. Photo: Dennis Grombkowski/Bongarts/Getty Images
Marcelo strikes from the edge of the area to score Real Madrid's second goal in their Champions League round-of-16 clash with Schalke 04 at the Veltins-Arena. Photo: AFP PHOTO / ODD ANDERSENODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images
Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane holds off the challenge from Schalke 04's Felix Platte during their Champions League round-of-16 clash at the Veltins-Arena. Photo: Dennis Grombkowski/Bongarts/Getty Images

Brian Homewood

After an astonishing three matches - 299 minutes - without a goal, Cristiano Ronaldo finally found the back of the net again last night to help holders Real Madrid to victory at Schalke in the last sixteen of the Champions League.

The world player of the year headed in after 26 minutes for his 73rd Champions League goal with Real's first chance of the game and he set up Marcelo to make it seven wins for Real in seven Champions League games this season.

Real's victory was nowhere near as emphatic as last season's 6-1 romp at Schalke at the same stage of the competition but it was a much-needed confidence boost for Carlo Ancelotti's team after a lacklustre start to the year in Spain.

Looking to become the first team to retain the Champions League title, Real, eliminated from the King's Cup this month and crushed 4-0 by Atletico Madrid in La Liga, host Schalke in the second leg on March 10.

First to the ball and working hard, Schalke gradually grew in confidence but Ronaldo, left with far too much space in the box, put Real ahead, ending his mini lean spell with a glancing header from Daniel Carvajal's cross to take his competition tally to 73, two short of the record held by Barcelona's Lionel Messi.

Karim Benzema almost got a second but reserve keeper Timon Wellenreuther, making his competition debut, kept his cool to clear the ball.

The 19-year-old got the nod due to injuries to Fabian Giefer and Ralf Faehrmann and he did well to deny Ronaldo his second goal, parrying a curling free kick in the 34th.

Schalke's game plan collapsed when Huntelaar, back in action despite serving a suspension in the Bundesliga for a red card, limped off with a leg injury and Marcelo cut in from the left to smash a shot into the top corner late on to seal victory.

Irish Independent

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