Cristiano Ronaldo Delivers While Neymar Fades Into His Own Maze Of Dribbles
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In an individual matchup that was billed by many as the past of football versus the future, it was Cristiano Ronaldo — seven years the senior — who once again delivered while Neymar’s myriad of mazy dribbles led to naught.
In the age of the meme, the superstars of Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain delivered pretty on-brand performances.
Ronaldo struggled mightily in the opening 44 minutes, putting a free kick from just outside the box over in the 26’ before wasting a wonderful opportunity only two minutes later.
After being played through by Marcelo, the Portuguese forward ripped one into Alphonse Areola’s face.
Marcelo puts it on a plate for CR7 but this is good keeping. Areola paid for it too. pic.twitter.com/USxb3OSK8R
It got worse in the 37’ with Real now trailing 1-0. Ronaldo had a great chance to equalize with time and space in the box, but his shot was woeful.
Guys, CR7 might be finished. pic.twitter.com/xAgYn7NOIq
And then, just like that, the narrative changed. Giovani Lo Celso brought down Toni Kroos in the box for no real reason, and Ronaldo stepped up to bury the high-pressure penalty emphatically.
Suddenly, with his 100th Champions League goal for Real Madrid, he was the hero.
Ronaldo nets his 100th Champions League goal for Real. What a milestone. https://t.co/FwrJRfM3bL— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) February 14, 2018
His adversary Neymar spent the majority of the opening 45 winning free kicks around the halfway line. He completed seven dribbles in the first half, a number totally becoming of the world’s premier dribbling wizard, but one tame shot straight at Keylor Navas was the only real end product of all that pizzazz.
Commentators initially credited Neymar with the assist on Adrian Rabiot’s opener, but that was a barefaced lie. He had no touch on the ball and no intention to do as much.
Neymar was also booked early for an extremely cynical challenge on Nacho, and the battle between the Brazilian star and the Spanish fullback would rage all night long.
Neymar didn't get a valentine today apparently pic.twitter.com/whOiF3IM2F
The second 45 would carry on in a similar vein for both. Neymar completed six more dribbles for a total of 13 (he was also dispossessed six times, a high for any player on the pitch), but his second shooting opportunity of the night was a half-chance in the 93’ that he blazed over.
Ronaldo, meanwhile, took his shot total to 10 over the course of the game while bundling home Real’s game-winner in the 83rd minute. It wasn’t pretty, but it was everything for Madrid.
Ronaldo gets his brace to give #RealMadrid the 2-1 lead!! #PSG failed to deal with Asensio's cross, and #CR7 scored with an improvised finish! #RMAPSG #MadridPSG #UCL #HalaMadrid pic.twitter.com/zg1kDoRMFq— Jason Foster (@JogaBonito_USA) February 14, 2018
Ronaldo also pitched in defensively — he was industrious throughout and ultimately got his goals. It’s an absolute joke how consistently he delivers in the Champions League, and he now has 11 from seven this season. That isn't plausible.
PSG certainly have the firepower to overturn the deficit on March 6, but they’ll need Neymar to harness some of that Ronaldo efficiency to make it happen.