Champion’s League:Ronaldo hat-trick inspires Madrid to comeback win


Real Madrid 3-0 Wolfsburg (agg: 3-2)
Cristiano Ronaldo wiped out the first-leg deficit with two goals in the space of 86 seconds before sealing it with a late free-kick.

Cristiano Ronaldo was at his destructive best as a sensational hat-trick left Wolfsburg’s dreams in tatters.

Real Madrid needed a minor miracle to reach the UEFA Champions League semi-finals for the sixth season running, and Ronaldo was just the man to perform it. The 31-year-old wiped out the deficit with two goals inside 90 seconds early on, and then sealed victory with a free-kick that found a gap in a poorly formed wall and, from there, the back of the net.

Zinédine Zidane said on the eve of the game that his side “weren’t going to win it inside ten or 15 minutes”, but it did not take them much longer to at least cancel out their first-leg arrears. Sergio Ramos had already looped a header onto the bar when Dani Carvajal got into space down the right and his deflected cross was swept in by Ronaldo.

It was a big blow to Wolfsburg but nothing to compare with the one that followed less than 90 seconds later as Ronaldo rose and glanced in Toni Kroos’s corner. Madrid, playing with an urgency conspicuous by its absence six days ago, were suddenly level on aggregate.

It got worse before it got better for Wolfsburg as Julian Draxler limped off, yet there were signs of promise before the break and Bruno Henrique could easily have grabbed a killer away goal. Teed up with only Keylor Navas to beat, the Brazilian fatefully took a touch rather than going for goal, allowing Marcelo and Ramos to get bodies in the way.

The Madrid onslaught continued after the interval and Ramos thought he had scored midway through the second period with a header from a set piece that hit the upright and rolled to Diego Benaglio. Extra time loomed until Ronaldo sent in a free-kick that slipped through the wall and just beyond Benaglio. Like so often in this competition, it was just his night.

Key player: Cristiano Ronaldo
Cometh the hour, cometh the man. The competition’s record scorer is ever the man for a big occasion. He did it against Schalke last season and his impressive record against German sides was prolonged tonight. He twice popped up in the right place at the right time to even things up and then buried the free-kick that won it. The Portuguese is just one off his competition record of 17 in a campaign and still has at least two more games to break it.

Zidane learning on the job
Still wet behind the ears in managerial terms, Zidane is showing signs that as each game passes he is improving his understanding of the job. After admitting he did not get things quite right in the first leg he changed tactics and made an alteration in personnel as Carvajal replaced Danilo at right-back. It paid immediate dividends as the Spaniard gobbled up the turf before firing in the cross that led to Ronaldo’s opener.

Boisterous Bernabéu
Ever since their 2-0 defeat in Germany, Madrid fans had set the agenda for a famous European ‘remontada’ (fightback). From hours out they lined the streets around the ground and unfurled just before kick-off a huge banner recalling their 1985 UEFA Cup semi-final comeback against Inter Milan. The noise went up several decibels with Ronaldo’s goals in the first half and the metaphorical roof was completely blown off as he capped a stunning comeback on 77 minutes.

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