Cristiano gives his Ballon d’Or a polish

14 Apr 2017

Two goals at the Allianz Arena made Cristiano Ronaldo the first player to reach the magical figure of 100 in all European club competitions. He was also on the receiving end of both of the poorly-timed challenges by Javi Martínez which ended with the Bayern defender taking an early bath. Cristiano has been having a discreet campaign – his goal count is on the wane but on the big night in Munich he returned to deliver the goods. He is changing his game from the dazzling winger we once knew, who would start his blistering charges towards goal from a good 50 yards out, to a centre-forward who covers less ground, who prowls inside the area, able to jink one way or the other, together with an aerial power which makes him an archetypal predator in the box.

Cristiano and his team mates made sure that Madrid won a game which didn’t get off to the best of starts for them. Robben had a great first half – no one could stop him. Even when they occasionally took hold of the ball in the opponents’ half to give themselves a chance to get their breath back, Zidane’s men looked uncomfortable while they were being attacked from the wings. Marcelo, Kroos, Sergio Ramos… they all looked powerless. It was only a question of time before Bayern took the lead. Vidal outleapt Nacho and steered a brutal header in from a corner. Madrid could have been left with an even bigger challenge when Rizzoli pointed to the spot after the ball had struck Carvajal on the chest. As it turned out, it was actually a stroke of luck for Madrid because Vidal sent his spot-kick into the stands and that changed the course of the game.

Bayern returned after the break feeling as though they had let slip a two-goal lead. In contrast, Madrid, were happy to still be alive in the game. They started to play looser and soon Cristiano levelled the score, turning in a Carvajal cross. Moments later, Javi Martínez, who has never been a centre-back but more a box-to-box player, was issued a second booking and the outlook suddenly seemed very different for the hosts. Against 10 men, Madrid started to control the ball and all areas of the pitch. Robben was now no longer Bayern’s best player on the field – that role was taken over by Neuer, who was superb. Marcelo stopped suffering at the back and starting enjoying himself further up-field. Cristiano scored again and Madrid could even have grabbed one or two more, between the collective cheers of Olé from their travelling supporters, who were having the time of their lives. All in all, it was an unforgettable evening.

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