Real Madrid's thrilling 3-2 victory over Manchester City in the opening game of the 2012-13 UEFA Champions League could not have been bigger for the club, nor for the player whose right foot struck the last-minute winner past Joe Hart.
Cristiano Ronaldo's goal was just what Real Madrid needed—probably on more fronts than they realize or expected.
The defending La Liga champions have not started the season well—sitting 12th on the current standings with just one win to their credit and trailing fierce rivals Barcelona by eight points already.
They've averaged the second highest amount of possession per match but simply don't have the goals, or the points, to show for it. And even worse than that, they don't look like a table-topping team this season, nor do they seem to have the drive to become a champion club this year.
The win against Manchester City might just be the kick-start they need. After all, we know exactly what this team is capable of when playing on their day. Anyone who doesn't know yet only needs to look back to last season for the perfect example.
At their best, Real Madrid are as close to unbeatable as there is in world football at the moment—they are arguably the best football team on the planet when playing their best football, which is why Cristiano Ronaldo's goal could mean the world for Los Blancos.
On a Champions League front, the three points are huge in their qualification dreams, having drawn one of the hardest groups in memory with the English champions, the German champions and the Dutch champions all alongside them.
Picking up three points at home was huge for Real Madrid, and manager Jose Mourinho knew it, which probably explains the emphatic celebration he displayed once the winner had been scored. He knew just how big a goal it was in terms of what could happen throughout the tournament.
But as mentioned, the goal could indeed be bigger than just the Champions League—it could provide Real Madrid the starting point for success this year. The season is still just beginning, and the head-start they have given Barcelona is not insurmountable.
It should end the discussion of Cristiano Ronaldo leaving the Bernabeu and bring a stop to the transfer speculation that the winger will be moving back to the English Premier League, or somewhere else in world football.
It brings focus, cohesion and the belief that they can indeed do it all again this year—despite what's unfolded so far this season.
Jose Mourinho knew how important the goal was and how important the win was for his team. It's up to Madrid now to prove him right.
Is it too early to call this a season-defining moment for Real Madrid?
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