Tuesday 16 January 2018

Dortmund rediscover form to keep hopes alive

Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo

Jamie Holland

BORUSSIA DORTMUND, last season's Champions League runners-up, beat Napoli 3-1 with a stellar offensive performance to earn a lifeline and stay in the hunt for a place in the knockout stages.

Germany international Marco Reus converted a 10th-minute penalty and Jakub Blaszczykowski added another goal on the hour before Lorenzo Isigne's 71st-minute strike set up what looked like a nervous finale to the Group F match.

However, Dortmund substitute Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang made sure of the three points with his first Champions League goal seven minutes later to lift Dortmund, who visit Olympique Marseille in their last group match next month, into second place ahead of Napoli with both teams on nine points.

Meanwhile, Real Madrid supporters will put on 45,000 Cristiano Ronaldo face-masks in support of their player's Ballon d'Or candidacy at the Bernabeu tonight.

Real's injured ace will look down from his private box and see thousands of versions of himself staring back at him. There will also be a six-metre high banner draped over one side of the stadium that reads: "We are all Cristiano".

The club have organised the distribution of the masks at the request of two supporter groups and it is a measure of how comfortable they are in the Champions League that, having all but mathematically assured themselves top spot in their group, they can allow so much attention in their penultimate game against Galatasaray to be concentrated on one player's pursuit of a personal honour.

Early qualification as group winners might not be the only reason to believe Real could go all the way this season, giving Ronaldo a final back on Portuguese soil next May. This is a Real Madrid side saving itself for Europe and able to do so because of a relatively weak league.

Xabi Alonso, who turned 32 on Monday, has been able to delay his comeback after five months out following surgery on a groin problem and a broken toe.

The former Liverpool midfielder will be rested before big European games and, as he decides between staying at Real and exercising his right to talk to Premier League clubs in January, the lesser physical demands in Spain may be a deciding factor.

Irish Independent

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