After a poor performance against Las Palmas that culminated in a substitution and a minor strop on the bench, Cristiano Ronaldo bounced back in style with an all-round display in Real Madrid’s 2-2 draw at Borussia Dortmund.
The No. 7 opened the scoring in the 17th minute to conclude a classic Madrid counter-attack, before putting in a fine cross to help create Raphael Varane’s 67th minute goal.
But it was the overall nature of Ronaldo’s performance that caught the eye, as he put in an energetic performance on both sides of the ball to put his substitution controversy behind him.
A constant threat
It took less than three minutes for Ronaldo to fire his first warning shot at the Yellow Wall, his strong free kick forcing a good save from Roman Burki.
Los Blancos then faced a period of sustained pressure from Dortmund’s pacey attackers, before Ronaldo helped start and finish a slick team move to put his team 1-0 up against the run of play.
Running toward his own goal to pick up a headed clearance, the Euro 2016 champion set off a counter-attack that involved all six of his team’s midfielders and attackers, before finishing with aplomb at the other end.
It was his 95th goal in the Champions League, sending him nine clear of Lionel Messi atop the competition’s all-time goalscoring charts.
Ronaldo also had his fingerprints all over Madrid’s second goal. Normally seen hovering in and around the box for corner kicks, he caught Dortmund’s defence unawares by taking a quick corner himself before launching a marvellous back-post cross that Varane eventually turned in.
More than just goals
The 31-year-old also showcased intelligent movement off the ball, regularly dropping deep to relieve the pressure on his midfield colleagues and help them play their way out of Dortmund’s customary high press.
He also spent a significant amount of the game in his own half, often retreating to midfield to help his team assume a 4-5-1 formation while defending.
This was important given that Dortmund enjoyed the lion’s share of possession and attacked with plenty of verve.
All in all, this was a vibrant and focused performance from Ronaldo, and will have gone some way to quelling rumours of tension between him and Zidane.
Yes, the Portuguese winger was upset at being substituted at Las Palmas but it was a normal reaction that has been blown out of proportion in many quarters.
“We have a game on Tuesday, so we had to let him rest and think about Dortmund,” Zidane said at the time.
It seems to have worked.
By giving Ronaldo 20 minutes of rest over the weekend, Zidane managed to kill two birds with one stone by preserving his talisman’s physical condition while lighting a fire beneath him at the same time, with the end result being a man-of-the-match performance in one of Europe’s toughest grounds.
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