Having not played a competitive club game for Real Madrid since being sent off in the first-leg of Spanish Super Cup clash against Barcelona on August 13th, Cristiano Ronaldo, who has served four of his five-match suspension in domestic football, wasted no time to make his mark on his return in Europe.
12 minutes in fact – that was it all took for the Portuguese legend to score. It is the sixth successive time he has achieved that feat on the opening night of the Champions League season.
A subtle check and run left Brazilian defender Carlao for dead – the 31-year-old had no idea where Ronaldo was at the back post as he slotted home. Credit, too, has to go to Gareth Bale who provided a slick through ball across the face of goal.
Perhaps Ronaldo’s hefty five-game suspension for shoving the referee at the Nou Camp has turned out to be a blessing in disguise as he looked as sharp as ever and hungry in front of goal. Valuable rest time for the in-demand star.
His early penalty in the second-half secured the game and from then on it was a practice match for the hosts. Could Ronaldo net a hat-trick, that became the serial plotline. He didn’t get it in the end but he can be happy with his night’s work on a humid evening in Madrid.
Whites fans will next see their hero in action at the Santiago Bernabeu on September 21, when he returns from his La Liga ban and will face Real Betis.
Goals – 2
Assists – 0
Shots – 9 (3)
Dribbles – 2
Passes – 27
Key passes – 2
Pass Accuracy – 84.6%
Touches – 41
Aerials Won – 0
Ronaldo’s movement, quick feet, direct running and killer instinct were all there as normal. Playing as the leader and focal point of Los Blancos’ attack, he was given freedom to drift onto the flanks and cut in, too – much like he did for his first goal.
He is the man Real need to guarantee that things happen on the pitch.
12th minute – On hand to rifle home his first of the match.
45th minute – Close again to adding to his tally at the end of the first-half, but couldn’t quite latch onto a cross from the left.
47th minute – Hits the bar but thinks the ball bounced down and went over the line following Dani Carvajal’s centre. While he had a go at the official operating behind the goal, it proved to be the right decision not to award it.
51st minute – Dispatches penalty with ease after Apoel defender clumsily handled in the area.
67th minute – Spurned a chance to claim his hat-trick, firing straight at goalkeeper Boy Waterman from a narrow angle.
74th minute – Glancing header from Dani Carvajal cross but didn’t quite get the contact he wanted.
85th minute – Slots home following Luka Modric’s pass – hat-trick?! But, no, it was clearly off-side despite Ronaldo’s grievances at the officials.
Lean, mean and just simply a goalscoring machine. 92 goals in 89 Champions League outings for Los Blancos – the incredible statistics just keep coming and coming. 145 appearances in Europe’s premier event in his career – the most out of any outfield player of all time – that takes some doing.
While it wasn’t the 32-year-old’s best game, his sheer presence on the pitch gave Madrid a lift after two consecutive draws at home to Valencia and Levante in La Liga.
With 12 goals in 13 Champions League outings last season, Ronaldo was the main man as Real secured back-to-back triumphs in Cardiff and boy will he be the key once again if Zinedine Zidane’s men are to reach Kiev in May.