Neil Humphreys: Ron's the last superstar standing in Champions League
Ronaldo succeeds where Messi and Co failed
No one smashes a penalty in the top corner, not in the last minute.
But Cristiano Ronaldo does things his way. He was practically whistling Frank Sinatra's anthem as he prepared to punt Real Madrid into the last four.
Only he wasn't. Sinatra's opening line is all wrong for Ronaldo.
Regrets, I've had a few.
Ronaldo doesn't do regrets. He does winning.
Any other footballer, any other human being, doesn't hammer a spot-kick in the small space between post and crossbar in the 97th minute of a Champions League quarter-final.
They play safe. They play the odds. They hit hard and low, following the natural swing of right-footed players. They connect with the in-step. The ball rolls into the opposite, left-hand corner. Job done.
But Ronaldo revels in risk. He's the guy standing over the roulette wheel, constantly playing a single number, knowing that the rewards are bigger and the adulation greater.
Every rational thought reminds an experienced pro of what's at stake in those chaotic moments between the referee pointing to the spot and striking the ball.
In 63 years of European Cup competition, no one had beaten Real by three goals at the Bernabeu. Juventus were 3-0 up after 90-odd minutes.
Pandemonium reigned. Gianluigi Buffon's Champions League career had ended in ignominy. Wojciech Szczesny was taking forever to replace Buffon, more than five minutes.
Szczesny was playing mind games with Ronaldo, a feeble exercise, like a stormtrooper trying to convince a Jedi to throw away his light-saber.
Ronaldo had only two, possibly three, thoughts on his mind as he placed the ball. One, he wasn't taking the path of least resistance. He was going for the top corner.
Two, he was taking his shirt off. Yellow cards be damned. He's the Matthew McConaughey of modern football. He's always taking his shirt off.
And three, he was running straight for the cameras, giving him enough time to flex the pecs before being smothered by grateful teammates.
This is the kind of stuff that Ronaldo presumably thinks about as he prepares to save his side from suffering the worst night in their European history.
RONALDO HAS NO LIMITS
So he did all of the above. Of course he did.
The only difference between genius and insanity, according to Einstein, is that genius has limits. But Ronaldo has no limits. There's a warped insanity at work, one that fuels his genius.
Even Lionel Messi might have erred on the side of caution with a 97th-minute penalty, but he never found himself in such a make-or-break situation against AS Roma, a point that's lost in the Ronaldo coverage.
Like his Real teammates, he hadn't played well against Juventus. He was anonymous in the first half, but improved after the interval.
Messi didn't. In the Roma-Barcelona battle, the pendulum had clearly swung towards the Italian side.
The outcome in the Bernabeu was less certain, partly because of Ronaldo. He grew in the contest, literally and metaphorically.
Debate rages over Medhi Benatia's push on Lucas Vazquez, but who headed the ball into Vazquez's path?
Ronaldo stands just eight centimetres taller than Juve defender Alex Sandro. When both men took flight, Ronaldo was head and shoulders above the cowed Brazilian, a monster against a mouse.
Every gym session, leg extension, squat and star jump allowed a 33-year-old man to leap like a springbok while maintaining the upright poise of a meerkat in the 92nd minute.
That's where the quarter-final was really won.
In some ways, the penalty was the window dressing, just one small step for Ronaldo following one giant leap for Real.
Messi didn't do something similar in Rome. Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Mueller had an off-night in Munich and the magnificent Mario Mandzukic is out.
Ronaldo is the last superstar standing in the Champions League, a chiselled gunslinger still lining them up in a deserted saloon.
Liverpool's front three might have something to say about that in the semi-finals, particularly the irrepressible Mo Salah, but the Portuguese automaton is certainly the last of the old guard.
He's got 15 goals in this season's Champions League, 120 overall and he's not done yet. And he's 33. Thirty-three. The fact bears repeating because it never gets old, rather like Ronaldo.
He succeeded where even Messi failed, pulling his faltering team back from the brink of humiliation.
Apart from the Anfield faithful, no one, surely, would deny this mad, tanned genius a fifth Champions League medal.
Ronaldo earns praise for his ice-cool temperament
Last week, Cristiano Ronaldo showed his acrobatic abilities to score a bicycle-kick goal in their 3-0 win over Juventus.
Yesterday morning (Singapore time), he displayed nerves of steel to smash in a crucial late penalty after much delay, earning praise from pundits.
His 97th-minute spot-kick for Real narrowed the deficit to 3-1, helping the holders avoid extra-time in their quarter-final, second leg to progress 4-3 on aggregate.
Former Liverpool and Real Madrid striker Michael Owen praised the 33-year-old Portuguese superstar for scoring such a convincing penalty despite the delay and distractions.
Juventus players had disputed referee Michael Oliver's decision to award the penalty after Lucas Vazquez was fouled.
In the process, Juventus goalkeeper and captain Gianluigi Buffon was sent off for pushing Oliver as he vented his fury at the decision.
There was a long delay before Juventus substitute goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny took his place, but Ronaldo kept his cool to blast the ball into the top-right corner.
Said Owen on BT Sport: "Under that pressure, it is mind-blowing how he strikes it (the penalty) so cleanly."
Former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard said on BT Sport: "To put it in the top corner at that pace and that power - outrageous."
RON THRIVES ON PRESSURE
Ronaldo also earned praise from former Manchester United captain Roy Keane.
"He's a big-game player," Keane said on ITV.
"It was a big occasion and it was set up for him. He had a quiet night and Real Madrid had the fright of their lives, but it always seems to fall to Ronaldo. There was never any doubt he was going to score the penalty."
Ronaldo admitted that he had felt slightly nervous, but he managed to calm himself down.
"The pulse increased, but I calmed down and I knew I'd be decisive," he said on Sky Sports.
Former England captain Gary Lineker, also speaking on BT Sport, believes Ronaldo thrives on the pressure.
He said: "Ronaldo loves the opportunity to show what he's made of... To do something that other mere mortals can't do."
To which fellow pundit Rio Ferdinand quipped: "To show his physique."
That was something Ronaldo certainly did. Besides taking off his shirt to reveal his chiselled abs, he also displayed his athleticism, which impressed Gerrard.
Said Gerrard : "He always has his moments and people will talk about the penalty, but it's the leap at the back post, not many players can get that height.
"You can understand that (Mario) Mandzukic up against Dani Carvajal is a mismatch.
"But there's no mismatch here, it's just Ronaldo's power and his agility to get the height to win the header. That's the special moment for me."