When Cristiano Ronaldo silenced the Camp Nou with a counter-attack goal in the second La Liga El Classico, more than just a league title seemed to have been secured. Global football supremacy felt more appropriate. Real Madrid returned a team largely intact, adding only Luka Modric and Michael Essien, enjoyed a healthy, uneventful pre-season and claimed the Spanish Super Cup over Barcelona to start the season.
From that moment, little has gone right. The have played poorly, dropped two league games and fallen eight points behind Barca in the league table, been drawn into the Champion’s League Group of Death, and had their talisman succumb to a bizarre episode of sadness.
Today at home in their Champion’s League debut, Real Madrid played Manchester City. For 67 minutes they ran, pressed, possessed and shot at will against Man City, seemingly all the things a good team should do. They could not, however, do what winning team’s do…score a goal. Their tenuous control of the game ended when Yaya Toure won a ball, raced up field on a counter and fed Dzeko for a shock goal.
Real, the weight of their poor form undoubtedly sitting heavy upon them, had every reason to buckle. The did not. Twice in a frantic final twenty two minutes they drew level with Man City, and in the final moments Ronaldo placed a nasty, twenty yard dipping shot below Joe Hart and into the net giving Real a memorable 3-2 win.
Upon scoring, the formerly sad, now elated, Ronaldo raced to the corner flag with a knee slide before falling onto his back before the screaming fans. Fifty or so yards away, Jose Mourinho leapt from the bench and ran onto the pitch with his own knee slide followed by full arm extensions and rapid simultaneous double fist pumps.
It was a cathartic moment made possible by collective resilience, positive mental focus and unshakable belief.
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