CHAMPIONS LEAGUE:REAL MADRID TRIUMPH OVER BAYERN MUNICH 2-1 IN GERMANY
You will be familiar with the routine. A jump in the air, arms stretched down by his side, chest puffed out like a peacock then a roar of delight.
It is the Cristiano Ronaldo goal celebration, one you will have seen over and over in the Champions League down the years. Except not so much this season. In the competition that he has almost made his own, Ronaldo incredibly had not hit the target since September 27.
That sequence was never going to last, was it? Sure enough, just when his team needed him, Ronaldo did what Ronaldo does best, ending an 11-hour drought, with two strikes in 29 minutes that have put 10-man Bayern Munich on the brink of elimination. In doing so he became the first man to score 100 times in European competition.
Nobody could quite believe Neuer had kept his goal intact – there was another save from Cristiano Ronaldo just before the interval that was of similar quality – but his first action provided the jolt that Bayern required to burst into life.
Finally they started to play and on 25 minutes Ancelotti’s men had the lead. Vidal had initially forced a corner with a thumping volley that Gareth Bale headed away but from Thiago Alcantara’s ensuing set play, Vidal escaped his marker, Nacho, and planted a bullet header past Keylor Navas.
If only Vidal had been so assured in first half injury time when Bayern were gifted a soft penalty after Dani Carvajal was adjudged to have handled; all that was required was some poise but the Chilean got everything wrong and thrashed his spot kick horribly over the bar.
It was a miss to change the game. Madrid returned reinvigorated that they had been let off the hook and, within 90 seconds, parity had been restored with a glorious goal; Casemiro drilled a pass out to Carvajal, the right back fizzed a first time cross into the area and Ronaldo did the rest.
What a difference the equaliser made. Suddenly black shirts swarmed forward and the sense of dread rose within the stadium. Only another superlative stop from Neuer, flinging himself to repel Bale’s point blank header, kept their heads above water.
Yet there was only so much he could do and when Javi Martinez was expelled for two bookings, Real had the scent of blood. In such circumstances, nobody is more ruthless than Ronaldo and in the 76th minute, he pounced to convert Marco Asensio’s cross.
On so many levels, this was huge. It was his 97th strike in the Champions League, his 100th in European football but, critically, it put Bayern on the brink. The German would have been over the edge had Sergio Ramos not had an injury time header chalked off for offside.
Zidane need not fear. After this, the last four surely beckons