Soccer is a game of decisive moments. This is both it’s frustration and it’s majesty. In some games such as Real Madrid’s 0-0 draw on Sunday a decisive moment never arrives. It came close a time or two, probably never closer than Cristiano Ronaldo’s curving 25 yard shot in the first half that hit the post. Frustration and tension mounted in equal measure until the final whistle brought about an unsatisfying exhale and the inescapable realization for Madrid that the La Liga title, once thirteen points clear, was now in peril. Dropping any more points, particularly before playing at Barcelona in a few weeks would be fatal. This was the back drop as Real Madrid traveled across town to play derby rival Athletico Madrid.
“Cometh the moment, cometh the man” – Cliff Gladwin, English cricketer
The man was Cristiano Ronaldo. In the 25th minute of a 0-0 game, Ronaldo lined up to take a free kick from 35 yards out more or less dead center, a classic “Bend it like Beckham” moment, but where as Beckham would literally bend the ball goalward and a predtictable angle, Ronaldo powers through the ball dead on striking a high velocity knuckleball that left the Athletic goalkeeper stationary as though looking at a called third strike.
In the 68th minute of a 1-1 game, Ronaldo cut in from the left wing with the ball on his right foot, glanced quickly at goal and struck a wonderous dipping shot on the move that crested over the keeper before dipping under the crossbar. A goal conjured from nothing, but the brilliance of his skill and vision.
In the 83rd minute, Real Madrid was awarded a penalty shot. Ronaldo, fifteen yards, a keeper and a goal. To be fair, it was his worst shot of the night as he bounced the ball to the left side where the keeper chose to dive, but was fortunate to have it skip over him.
In the 87th minute, Ronaldo made a diagonal run in from the left and received the ball at full gallop at the center of a three v. two counter attack. He played a perfect pass to Jose Callejon, who calmly put away the final goal of the contest.
Ronaldo was at his best under the immense pressure of the title race, and involved in all four goals. It was a truly great performance, by a trule special player. This is accepting the responsibility of your greatness.
It must be said that his greatness on this evening in every particular by broadcaster Ray Hudson, who had the call on all four goals. Here is Ray in his own words:
0-1, Ronaldo free kick. “Are you kidding me? Astonishing! This is not just a dream, it’s a wet dream of orgasmic proportions.”
“Wonder strike from Cristiano. This has got more curves to it than Jessica Rabbit on steroids. It arches like an incredible rainbow.”
“He has a strike all of his own. A technique that is absolutely unique. Not a player on God’s earth that strikes it the way Ronaldo does.”
“It’s not like a NASA moon shot every time. But when he nails it, it is literally one of the most amazing spectacles that you’ll ever see.”
More on the free kick. “It’s got more ups and downs to it, seemingly, than Space Mountain, Phil.”
1-2, Ronaldo. “Again, the sleeping sword awakens by Cristiano Ronaldo. Deadlier than a Cape cobra with this astonishing strike.”
“The dark invader that is Cristiano Ronaldo, baby. He rolls the dice again; he’ll be squeezing them tonight.”
“Gonna need an oxygen tank in here please, producer.”
1-3 Ronaldo pen “Start chipping away at that marble, cos he SHOULD be erected & he’s telling his girlfriend, I’ll see you tonight, sweetie!”
“The headlines will be stolen. They’ll be cutting down forests to print the papers in Madrid about the legend of Cristiano.”
“The king of the battle of Madrid, his sword was sharp, his sword was ruthless, and it was so impressive.
“Atletico Madrid should be proud of their performance as well, but there’s only one king of the castle, and you know his name.”