Real Madrid’s goal-scoring talisman finally returned to form. Meanwhile, Bayern Munich is hoping theirs can return at all.
Cristiano Ronaldo broke out of his Champions League scoring slump with a brace and Real Madrid put in a convincing performance in beating Bayern 2-1 at the Allianz Arena in the first leg of their quarterfinal tie.
Ronaldo hadn’t scored in the competition since Sept. 27 against Borussia Dortmund in the group stage, and the six ensuing matches represented the longest he’d gone in his career without scoring a Champions League goal, although he did have six assists over that stretch.
His first strike leveled the match shortly after halftime, as he latched onto a ball from Daniel Carvajal and beat Manuel Neuer to extend his own Champions League record tally to 96 goals.
His 97th goal came in the 77th minute, when Marco Asensio floated what looked to be a tame cross that Ronaldo pushed home with a well-timed run.
The goals bookended a red card for Javi Martinez, who picked up two silly yellows in three minutes, the second of which was a laughably egregious kick-out at Ronaldo after he’d juked the Spanish center half.
Real Madrid had lined up to go right at Bayern from the opening whistle, and the game opened up even further once the hosts went down to 10 men. Martinez was playing without his regular defensive partner Mats Hummels, who suffered an ankle injury in training over the weekend and missed the game.
But the heaviest loss for the Bavarians was Robert Lewandowski, who missed the game due to a shoulder injury sustained against Dortmund over the weekend. His absence jumbled Bayern’s formation as Thomas Muller, who usually plays behind the star striker, instead pushed into a more advanced position. Arturo Vidal then moved from his midfield position in front of the defense and tucked in behind Muller.
Bayern counted on aging but dangerous wingers Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben to key the attack from the outside in, and it helped win the corners that led to the opening goal, a bullet header from Vidal in the 25th minute.
Real Madrid also caught a break just before half, when Carvajal was incorrectly ruled to have handled the ball in the box, but Vidal blasted his penalty over the bar.
As the game wore on, the Spanish side’s superiority began to show. Casemiro provided an effective barrier at holding mid and played a nice ball to begin the build-up for Ronaldo’s first goal, while Sergio Ramos and the defense expertly dealt with every Bayern ball forward in the second half.
Bayern now has no choice but to barrel forward at the Bernabeu next Tuesday in an attempt to erase the two away goals conceded. If Neuer hadn’t been as routinely brilliant as he was in making 10 saves, it could have been even worse.
The reigning German champions can only hope Lewandowski will be back by then. Ronaldo and the reigning Champions League winners will be waiting.
Source: Joey Gulino