Like what he has done in the past, Cristiano Ronaldo turned savior again for Real Madrid.
He supplied the fire, motivation and most of all – the goals that mattered most – to lift his team to the semifinals of the Champions League.
In a dramatic clash with Bayern Munich in front a massive crowd who screamed themselves hoarse at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on Wednesday, Ronaldo produced a marvelous treble, two of them in extra time, in their come-from-behind 4-2 victory over the German champions.
Thus, after winning the first leg 2-1 where Ronaldo scored a brace at the Allianz Arena, the Spanish giants clinched a 6-3 aggregate win to progress to the Last 4 for the seventh consecutive season, the longest streak in history.
Also, Ronaldo’s triple enabled him to reach 100 goals, the first player to do so in Europe’s most prestigious club tournament.
The La Liga leaders trailed after the returning Robert Lewandowski converted a penalty shot in the 53rd minute, but Ronaldo restored order by striking in the 76th following a cross from Casemiro who made up for the tackle on Arjen Robben that sent Lewandowski to the penalty spot.
Sergio Ramos’s own goal in the 77th put Bayern up again 2-1 to force extension, but the Real defender atoned by assisting Ronaldo for his second goal in the 104th minute.
Bayern played with 10 men in the extra 30 minutes after Arturo Vidal was sent off, and Ronaldo was on target again as he pushed the hosts to a 3-2 lead before midfielder Marco Asensio sent in the fourth goal in the 112th to finish off the visitors who claimed both of Ronaldo’s extra-time strikes were offside.
Madrid’s win overshadowed the 1-1 draw between last year’s beaten finalists Atletico Madrid and Leicester City at the King power Stadium, with the Spanish side also advancing to the next round after a 2-1 aggregate.
Second leg of the other semifinal ties between Juventus and Barcelona as well as Borussia Dortmund and Monaco will be played on Thursday.
On this electric night at the Spanish capital city, Ronaldo proved to all and sundry he is indeed the World Player of the Year, and perhaps more than that.
He had nothing but praises for Bayern whom he labelled “excellent.’’
But many would definitely agree that he and Real Madrid turned out to be better, or to be more precise “more excellent.’’
If they reach the final, Real Madrid will try to become the first side to successfully defend the Champions League title and claim a 12th European Cup.
But first, they have to finish business in the semifinals.
This is another herculean task to be done but with Ronaldo around, Real Madrid may very well be on the way to achieving another glory.