Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Football European

Cristiano Ronaldo could make Madrid showdown a Real video nasty

By Ian Herbert

Cristiano Ronaldo tried to get over the pain of being deemed unfit to play by settling down in the dug-out to watch videos of himself.

If the brooding, self-consciously doleful look of his seemed a little staged, then don't be fooled. When Rafael Benitez managed Ronaldo at the Bernabeu he found that it was the Champions League that did it for him. The sudden strains that would limit his interest in the hum-drum schedule of La Liga melted away.

Benitez will tell you that this was the stage on which he would feel he was pitting himself against Lionel Messi for what trinkets come at the end of the season.

It might have paid some of his team mates to watch those videos too, if only to remind them what the X-factor looks and feels like, because this side were certainly a shadow of their best without him.

"We'll use our weapons," Zinadene Zidane had said on Monday night but they were blunt; the team incapable of that burst of pace and flash of enterprise - the beautiful unexpected - which puts the fear of God into Ronaldo's opponents.

The mystery of Zidane's strategy was that he did not hand Gareth Bale the central striking role Ronaldo had vacated - the one that the Welshman always implored Benitez to give him, because the Ronaldo clique would leave him isolated out on the flank.

The centre forward's job went to Zidane's compatriot Karim Benzema instead and what we saw was something proletarian.

The Frenchman dropped to collect the ball rather than intuiting the razor passes Luka Modric and Toni Kroos are so patently capable of using to get a forward around the back. Or seizing possession and driving through alone.

Benzema did not re-appear after the interval and the 23-year-old Spaniard Jese Rodriguez Ruiz offered nothing better in his place until he leapt to Lucas Vazquez's cross with 20 minutes to run and sent it onto the bar.

The problem which City may come to look back on as a calamity was their struggle to break through this anaemic opposition.

Four shots on target all night is a statistic which does not win the European Cup.

Not the semi-final City had imagined, then, through these years of trying to come to grips with how to prosper in Europe.

However, though, it is a scoreline which makes next week's equation as simple as it can be.

It may all be down to whether Ronaldo's hamstring is repaired.

"I'd have played if it were the final," he said before withdrawing last night and his team have done enough without him to make that a genuine prospect.

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.


From Belfast Telegraph