Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Real Madrid 3 Schalke 1; agg 9-2: match report


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Read a full match report of the Champions League last 16 second-leg game between Real Madrid and Schalke 04 at Santiago Bernabéu Stadium on Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Cristiano Ronaldo - Real Madrid 3 Schalke 1; agg 9-2: match report
Marching on: Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring his first goal of the
evening at Santiago Bernabéu Stadium
 Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Real Madrid’s 9-2 aggregate annihilation of Schalke reaffirmed their status as favourites to capture La Décima, the club’s name for that fervently coveted prize of a 10th European Cup title. Twelve painful years have passed since Zinedine Zidane’s delicious volley yielded their ninth dose of such glory at Hampden Park, but on a night when Cristiano Ronaldo lashed in his 12th and 13th Champions League goal of the campaign – two shy of Lionel Messi’s record of 14 – their dream seemed to stand its best chance in a decade of fruition.

Superlatives are fast becoming inadequate for the peerless Portuguese, who last night reached 41 goals for the season with almost two months still to play. If he took his opening goal with aplomb, having been gifted a regulation finish by his standards when Gareth Bale served up a pass on a platter, this was simply the preamble to his sumptuous second, as he took a rapier to the Schalke defence with a surging run from 40 yards out, rounded off with a thundering low finish beyond goalkeeper Ralf Fährmann to awestruck gasps around the Bernabéu.
While Real had Sunday’s season-defining El Clásico with Barcelona foremost in their minds, they still orchestrated the second part of their procession to the Champions League quarter-finals with considerable élan. As Ronaldo and Bale both assumed leading roles it fell to rising young Spaniard Álvaro Morata to compound Schalke’s humiliation late on, whipping the ball past Fährmann once the irrepressible Ronaldo had struck the bar. There was still time for the Ballon d’Or to hit the woodwork again with another piercing drive in the middle, culminating in a strike ricocheting off the inside of the far post. He could have had four barely breaking sweat.
Carlo Ancelotti had been keeping Bale on the bench in reserve, but did not hesitate to dispatch him when academy starlet Jesé suffered an injury in just the seventh minute. His arrival provided the requisite urgency, as the Real front three found their irresistible range.
All it took was for Morata to toe a ball into the path of the Welshman, sweeping in from the right to lay a first-time pass perfectly at the feet of Ronaldo, who bundled home his 40th goal of the season.
Even when six goals to the good after the filleting in Gelsenkirchen, Real refused to relent, as Morata suggested why he was the weak link in their fearsome attacking triumvirate. Bale skipped past Sead Kolasinac, Schalke’s hapless left-back, with breathtaking ease, only for his 21-year-old strike partner to skew an effort horribly wide with the goal at his mercy.
So glaring a miss appeared briefly to energise the Germans, and they duly seized their reward when Tim Hoogland was granted excessive liberty to advance down the right and let fly with an optimistic attempt from 25 yards, which took a heavy deflection off Sergio Ramos to nestle in the bottom corner. He looked almost too sheepish to celebrate.
Schalke, hopeless though their task was, ought to have snaffled a second when Max Meyer put through Klaas-Jan Huntelaar with an exquisitely weighted pass, but the Dutchman dismally misjudged his angles with only Iker Casillas to beat.
Ronaldo would not leave these lapses unpunished for long. In the 74th minute he finally had his invitation to turn on the style, starting practically at the halfway line with his run at Schalke’s besieged defence, before unleashing a brilliant coup de grâce.
Morata applied yet more icing with a third goal, even if Ronaldo’s two near-misses denied him what would have been a quite astonishing 24th hat-trick in Real’s all-white.
The Telegraph

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