Real Madrid vs. Bayern Munich: Cristiano Ronaldo Just Wasn't Good Enough
He had a hand in every Madrid goal. There, given.
With that said, Ronaldo was a massive letdown over the course of the two matches.
It could be a game plan, but I suspect it is something with the player. There was simply no sense that No. 7 was the man Real Madrid were looking to find with the ball.
On the other hand, there was no doubt that Bayern wanted to play through the feet of Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben. And the two players' determination to be the focal point of their team's attack was evident throughout both games.
But what about Ronaldo?
Ronaldo Goes Missing
The Portuguese superstar got a total of 36 touches on the ball during the first leg of the semifinal in Munich. And some fair number of those came on free kicks won by other players.
The statistics (courtesy of Whoscored.com) say he took five shots, but I'm struggling to recall a truly menacing one. Even his trademark free kicks seemed to take the night off.
By contrast, his most direct opposite number was Bayern right-back Philipp Lahm. Lahm got 72 touches, passed at nearly 80-percent accuracy and terrorized the Madrid defense throughout the home side's 2-1 win.
Did I mention Lahm provided the assist on Bayern's game-winning goal? Yes, he did.
Ronaldo actually proved a liability in the game. He couldn't get on the ball. When he did, he couldn't get past Lahm. And his refusal to track the defender's forward bursts put his team under immense pressure going the other way.
And it wasn't just Lahm who got the better of Madrid's star man.
When Jose Mourinho acknowledged the obvious and shifted Ronaldo to the right to get him away from Lahm, suddenly Bayern's left-back David Alaba was bombing down the sidelines unchecked. And Ronaldo still wasn't getting on the ball or providing any danger for his team.
In short, Ronaldo was as useless as I imagine it's possible for a player of his class to be in the first leg.
Much Better, But Not Nearly Good Enough
Returning to the Bernabeu for the second leg, it really couldn't have gotten any worse for Ronaldo. But when Madrid were gifted a dodgy penalty in the game's opening minutes, he stepped up and put the confidence boosting spot kick away.
A few minutes later, he took advantage of Lahm's second mistake of the semifinal to slip in between defenders where he received neatly and slotted his second goal of the night past Bayern keeper Manuel Neuer.
For the remaining 100 minutes, Ronaldo was kept in pretty firm check by Bayern's defense. He got on the ball more often than in the first match. But not nearly as often as you would like a player of his stature to be involved.
Arjen Robben was more involved. Franck Ribery didn't have an exceptional game, but was still more involved. Lahm was again more involved. And even more damning to Ronaldo, they seemed far more determined to be involved.
One play is illustrative of the point. In the 82nd minute, Madrid looked to switch the field. Benzema played a ball toward the left wing. Ronaldo casually approached the pass before bailing out of the challenge as Lahm came sliding in to win possession.
Far too often over the two games it came down to Ronaldo simply not wanting it badly enough.
In a neat bit of symmetry with his counterpart in the "greatest footballer on Earth" debate, Ronaldo's evening would end when he failed to convert his kick in the decisive penalty shootout.
Perhaps he and Lionel Messi can commiserate on that count during the offseason. Without that pesky May 19 final on the schedule, they'll both have a little extra free time.
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