The Portuguese hit a hat-trick against Shakhtar Donetsk at the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday for his eighth goal in two games as he moved ever-closer to the club’s goal record
It was another memorable night for Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese added three more goals on Tuesday to the five he scored at Espanyol on Saturday to close to within two of Raul’s record of 323 for Real Madrid. But as has been the case so often in the past, he was helped by the award of two highly-controversial penalties.
Of his five goals against Espanyol at the weekend, only one came from the spot and it was a clear penalty as Gareth Bale was hacked down in the box, but against Shakhtar neither should have been given.
The first was awarded by the assistant referee after the official had made the correct call: the ball had hit Darijo Srna on the back. No penalty. And the second nine minutes later was given for an alleged handball by Marcio Azevedo, who could not have removed his arm even if he had tried. It was anything but deliberate.
But Ronaldo stepped up to slot home both times and celebrated as if he had won the Champions League trophy itself. Two more goals made it seven in two games (three from the spot) and an opportunist header after the Shakhtar goalkeeper had parried Marcelo’s stinging drive completed his hat-trick with 10 minutes left.
Ronaldo’s two penalties mean he has now netted 11 in the Champions League – more than any other player in the history of the competition. His first had seen him draw level with former team-mates Luis Figo and Ruud van Nistelrooy; his second sends him clear as the player with the most spot kicks converted in the tournament.
Only at Real since 2009, Ronaldo has now scored a massive 60 (out of 67) penalties for Los Blancos – a little less than a fifth of his 321 goals which see him within touching distance of Raul’s record.
During his 16 years at the Bernabeu, Raul netted 323 (in 741 appearances), but only five of those came from the penalty spot and of his 71 Champions League strikes for Real, none were penalties.
Penalties or no penalties, Ronaldo’s record is incredible: 321 goals in just 304 games since moving to Madrid from Manchester United for a record €94 million in 2009. The spot kicks have helped, but even without them he would likely have gone on to beat the tally of the Spanish striker at some stage.
“I’m happy,” the Portuguese said in the mixed zone after the game. “I’m grateful to my team-mates for the support they have given me. We knew we had to make a good start to La Liga and to the Champions League. We started La Liga a little badly with a draw at Sporting, but we are in a good moment now.”
And Benitez, who surprised many on Monday when he said Ronaldo was not necessarily the best player he had coached, sought to rectify on Tuesday. “There is no debate,” he said. “Cristiano is the best in the world. I rate him so highly.”
So do the Madrid fans and at one end of the stadium, supporters unveiled a banner before kick-off that read: “Cristiano Ronaldo: legend!”
During the game, those supporters saw Gareth Bale, Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos all depart through injury and the Welshman could be sidelined for some time with a calf problem. That was the bad news, but the good news was Cristiano’s continued form in front of goal.
His hat-trick took him to 80 goals in the Champions League (excluding one in a qualifier) and he is now three clear of Barcelona’s Lionel Messi – in action against Roma on Wednesday.
And on Saturday against Granada (against whom he scored five last season), he will have the opportunity to overtake Raul’s 323 strikes and put himself at the top of the illustrious list of scorers for the Spanish side.
Let’s hope he doesn’t do it with a penalty.
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