Ronaldo must rise in Europe
Real's flat superstar needs to improve for knockout stages
|REAL MADRID||BORUSSIA DORTMUND|
|(Karim Benzema 28, 53)||(Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 60, Marco Reus 88)|
The price of perfection is that one must be judged accordingly and Cristiano Ronaldo is falling short.
By any other yardstick, his performance against Borussia Dortmund yesterday morning (Singapore time) was quietly competent.
By his own exacting standards, the Real Madrid winger tiptoed towards mediocrity.
He was present at the Bernabeu, but not quite correct. His freakish consistency and Herculean tenacity were replaced with the average traits of a regular guy.
And Ronaldo as a man of the people simply doesn't work.
He continues to obliterate La Liga's bowling pins, but obdurate opponents are not quite falling down in the Champions League.
As Zinedine Zidane's men reached 34 games unbeaten to match a club record set in 1989, Ronaldo made a little unwanted history of his own.
His two goals in the group stages represent his lowest Champions League total across seven seasons in Spain.
It's hardly a crisis for a 31-year-old celebrating the most coveted year of his illustrious career, but something is awry.
Zidane's positive line-up, recalling a lively James Rodriguez and calling on Casemiro to hold central midfield, allowed the hosts to deliver one of their most accomplished first-half performances of the season.
The fullbacks foraged, with able support from Rodriguez, but the scoreboard failed to accurately reflect their dominance.
Karim Benzema netted twice. Ronaldo was denied twice.
Roman Weidenfeller produced a smart save to claw away a strike from the Portuguese forward. But Ronaldo was inside the box with a gaping goal either side of the Dortmund goalkeeper.
He also struck a post from eight metres. His flicked, graceful shot across the goalkeeper was a rare moment of elegance.
But he was unmarked in the box, home alone at Christmas, and still missed.
Even the greatest are allowed to occasionally walk among mortals, but Ronaldo drifted through an enthralling game he once would have dominated.
Perhaps the flesh was willing, but the mind was elsewhere.
Before kick-off, his club demanded the "utmost respect" should be shown for their main player after reports claimed Ronaldo could face jail time for tax fraud.
According to several media outlets, Ronaldo has directed 150 million euros ($229.2m) in income through a British Virgin Islands tax haven in the last seven years. He has denied any wrongdoing, but the cloud of uncertainty remains.
His laboured displayed appeared handicapped by his own frustration. It was an erratic performance tinged with petulance.
In the first half, as Rodriguez and Casemiro made the most of their selections, Ronaldo failed to capitalise on their reliable service.
His inability to orchestrate proceedings was neatly summarised when he foolishly kicked Marcel Schmelzer.
He was lucky to escape a booking and, in some respects, Real were lucky to escape with a point.
Despite Real's initial dominance, Ronaldo's spurned opportunities allowed the injury-ravaged German side back into the contest.
With a goal and an assist, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang flourished along the right flank. The guy from Gabon played with a joie de vivre that proved infectious.
It was the most Ronaldo-esque performance of the evening.
Of course, the actual Ronaldo scored the decisive penalty in the Champions League Final, lifted the Euro 2016 trophy as Portugal captain and has somehow retained the sculpted physique usually found on statues of Roman emperors.
He's hardly going to be crying into his protein shake this morning.
But, as Real Madrid demonstrated in both drawn contests against Dortmund, they can't quite defeat Europe's finest if Ronaldo isn't at the peak of his powers.
At the final whistle, he endured a smattering of boos from the perpetually dissatisfied Bernabeu crowd.
Such criticism seems harsh, but the Madridistas have always demanded the superhuman from Ronaldo.
And so will the knockout stages.
- Legia Warsaw 1 Sporting Lisbon 0