Reigning FIFA Ballon d'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo was near-flawless in Real Madrid's 6-1 dismantling of Schalke in Wednesday's Champions League round of 16 showdown in Gelsenkirchen.
The Portuguese forward scored a brace and assisted on another goal en route to earning Man of the Match honors. Ronaldo's first goal in the 52nd minute gave Real a 3-0 advantage and essentially put the match on ice. His 89th-minute strike extended the Spanish giants' lead to 6-0 and cemented his status as the best player on the pitch.
Afterward, Ronaldo praised his teammates, per UEFA reporter Paul Bryan:
@Cristiano "In general, the entire team, from Iker [Casillas] to the defenders and midfielders [performed well]. Everyone worked hard."— Paul Bryan (@UEFAcomPaulB) February 26, 2014
Following the impressive performance, Opta Sports provided some perspective on Ronaldo's greatness:
15 - Since the start of 2012-13, Cristiano Ronaldo (15) has scored two more Champions League away goals than Barcelona (13). Solo.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 26, 2014
The five-goal margin of victory means that Los Blancos are practically a lock to reach the Champions League quarterfinals on March 18, when they host Schalke in the second leg at the Bernabeu.
Although Ronaldo's fantastic effort stole the show on Wednesday, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema can't be overlooked. The duo combined to score four goals and were active from start to finish.
The ultra-aggressive Ronaldo would finish the match with 10 total shots, seven of which fell on goal. Combine that with two goals, an assist and an 83.0 pass completion percentage and it's not difficult to see why WhoScored.com awarded the 29-year-old with a perfect match rating of 10.0.
Jurgen Klinsmann must lay awake at nights wondering how his USA team deal with Cristiano Ronaldo at World Cup. Unplayable at times.— Ian Darke (@IanDarke) February 26, 2014
Despite a controversial three-match suspension received following a draw against Athletic Bilbao on Feb. 2, Ronaldo has been playing at an incredible level of late, scoring twice in Real's 2-0 win over crosstown rivals Atletico Madrid in the Copa del Rey semifinals on Feb. 11 and breaking out against Schalke on Wednesday.
But even though Ronaldo is flying high following Wednesday's eye-popping performance in Germany, he'll only have a few days to celebrate as Los Blancos will need him to be back at his very best on Sunday against Atletico.
Real currently lead the La Liga table by three points, and a defeat at Vicente Calderon would erase their lead and bring an end to their current unbeaten streak, which dates back to October.
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