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Home Sport Football European

Ronaldo has become king of the big-game occasion for Real Madrid

By Robert Jones

ZInedine Zidane knows what it means to score a brilliant goal on the biggest possible stage. Even for a man who has scored three goals in World Cup finals, his volley to win the 2002 Champions League decider was his greatest moment.

But 16 years on, Zidane's career as a coach has largely been carried by a player who has outstripped his own achievements and his own high points on that nexus of technical quality and context.

At the stage of his career when many players slow down and drop deep as their powers diminish, Cristiano Ronaldo has imagined and filled a new role unlike any other in history: that of a big-game decider, a bully on the toughest tracks.

He has turned himself, at the far side of 30, into the king of the Champions League.

Last night he scored his 118th Champions League goal before following it up with his 119th and surely his greatest ever in the competition: an overhead kick from just inside the penalty area that put Real Madrid 2-0 up against Juventus and effectively back into the semi-finals. Zidane called it "one of the most beautiful goals in the history of the game".

That goal made this the 10th consecutive Champions League game in which Ronaldo (right) has scored, another record, a run that started with the 2017 final in Cardiff, where Ronaldo scored twice in the 4-1 win over Juventus to pick up his fourth trophy, his third with Real Madrid and his second in two years.

Lionel Messi is regarded as the greatest footballer of all time but even he cannot claim to have decided so many of the biggest games all by himself over the last few years. This decade, for example, he has had to make do with only winning the Champions League twice.

And Ronaldo has thanked Juventus fans who gave him a standing ovation after his stunning bicycle kick.

Ronaldo's double gave Real a 2-0 lead before Paulo Dybala was sent off and Marcelo added a third at the Juventus Stadium.

Those three away goals have put Real in a comfortable position heading into the second leg at the Bernabeu next week but it was Ronaldo's ninth goal against the Italians - more than any other club in Europe - which took all the plaudits after the final whistle.

"Obviously people are talking about my second goal - it was a spectacular goal, possibly the best of my career," he said.

"This was one of the nicest moments. To be applauded by the Juventus Stadium, where so many great footballers have played, is a top moment for me.

"It's something that stays in your heart. I want to thank all the Italians who were here in the stadium and applauded me."

Ronaldo also admitted he had been trying to score a goal as spectacular as that for "a long time" as he notched his 13th and 14th goals of the Champions League this season, leaving him just three off his record of 17 in one campaign.

"I scored once for (Portugal) with a bicycle kick, which hit the post and went in, but this was a bit better," he said.

"I had been looking to score a goal like that for a long time but it depends on the circumstances of the match. Sometimes it doesn't work, but you always have to try. I tried and I scored.

"A great goal. What can I say? Fantastic. I didn't expect to score that goal but let's speak about the game. I think the game was amazing, we scored three goals against Juve - a great team. We played nice and of course I am happy I helped the team, I scored two goals. A great night."

5 of the best from the Cristiano Ronaldo collection

Cristiano Ronaldo added another spectacular Champions League goal to his collection with a breathtaking bicycle kick in Real Madrid’s 3-0 victory over Juventus.

The Portugal superstar leapt acrobatically to meet Dani Carvajal’s cross from the right with the sweetest of overhead efforts in the quarter-final first leg in Turin.

Here, we pick out five more of his Champions League goals to remember:

Manchester United v Chelsea - Champions League final, May 21, 2008: While not one of his famous free-kicks or lauded long-rangers, Ronaldo scored a trademark header to put United ahead in the first all-English Champions League final. Wes Brown and Paul Scholes exchanged passes, the former swinging in a left-footed cross, with Ronaldo hanging in the air above makeshift right-back Michael Essien. Frank Lampard levelled for Chelsea but Ronaldo would end up on the winning side despite being the only United player to miss during a penalty shoot-out.

Porto v Manchester United - Champions League quarter-final, April 15, 2009: Arguably the best goal Ronaldo scored during his time at Old Trafford, the talisman of Sir Alex Ferguson’s side crashed in the only goal of the game to send the Red Devils into a semi-final against Arsenal. Picking up a pass from Anderson, Ronaldo sent an unstoppable 40-yard drive past Helton in the hosts’ goal as United became the first English team to win a European match at Porto. Ronaldo would score only five more goals for the Red Devils before finally landing his dream move to Real Madrid.

Marseille v Real Madrid - Champions League group stage, December 8, 2009: It did not take long for Ronaldo to show Los Blancos just what he was capable of on the elite European stage. He had already hit a brace against both FC Zurich and Marseille before striking twice more against the French side at the Stade Velodrome. Just four minutes into the game, Rafael van der Vaart was fouled by Edouard Cisse some 35 yards from goal. That distance made no odds to Ronaldo, who arrowed the resulting free-kick over the wall and past goalkeeper Steve Mandanda in a flash, adding a second late on as Real cantered into the last-16 with a 3-1 win.

Galatasaray v Real Madrid  - Champions League group stage, September 17, 2013: A hat-trick goal to remember for Ronaldo as Carlo Ancelotti’s side ran riot in Istanbul, eventually running out 6-1 winners. Having scored two fairly simple goals to wrap up an already comprehensive victory, Ronaldo saved the best until injury-time. He collected a pass from Karim Benzema before a step-over and a drag-back saw him dance past both Aurelien Chedjou and Selcuk Inan and he angled a low shot past Fernando Muslera to seal a superb display. Ronaldo would go on to score a penalty in extra-time as Real beat city rivals Atletico Madrid 4-1 in the final to claim their 10th European Cup or Champions League title.

Liverpool v Real Madrid - Champions League group stage, October 22, 2014: Ronaldo’s 70th Champions League goal came at the home of his former club United’s bitter rivals. Despite not being as instantly eye-catching as some of his other efforts, it was voted the second-best goal in the competition that season and set Real on their way to a comfortable 3-0 win at Anfield. Ronaldo exchanged passes with Benzema before poking the ball to James Rodriguez, who then lofted it into the box. There, Ronaldo was waiting and, despite close attention from Martin Skrtel and a forlorn sliding challenge from Dejan Lovren, the Portuguese angled a perfect right-footed effort into the corner and past the outstretched hand of Simon Mignolet.

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