Cristiano Ronaldo scored early and late to ensure Real Madrid’s progress to the last four of the Champions League, despite Galatasaray’s stirring second half fight back in the second leg of their quarterfinal tie.
From the moment Ronaldo scored after just nine minutes in Istanbul to put Madrid ahead 4-0 on aggregate, the match appeared to be petering out to its inevitable conclusion.
But just before the hour mark, Galatasaray finally found some impetus in the tie as Emmanuel Eboue scored with a superb strike. After Wesley Sneijder and Didier Drogba had reduced the aggregate deficit to just 4-3, the crowd inside the Turk Telekom Arena began to sense something special.
Madrid, though, always appeared to have an answer and, despite a late sending off for Alvaro Arbeloa, did just enough to seal their place in the semifinals for a record 24th time courtesy of a late second from Ronaldo.
Jose Mourinho instructed his players beforehand to forget their 3-0 first-leg win and treat the game as a one-off match. And his side certainly began in that vein.
They could have been ahead even earlier as Galatasaray goalkeeper Fernando Muslera just raced out to win the ball ahead of Gonzalo Higuain before watching anxiously on as Angel di Maria’s shot trickled wide.
There was to be no reprieve minutes later. Mesut Ozil threaded a neat ball down the side of the penalty area to Sami Khedira, who instantly fired it across the near post where Ronaldo was on hand to side-foot a volley into the net.
The goal appeared to have killed the tie and everyone in the Turk Telekom Arena seemed acutely aware of the fact. Madrid also began playing with the score firmly in their thoughts and the match lost much of its intensity for the remainder of the first half.
The visitors still intermittently threatened to increase their advantage. Ronaldo went on an exhilarating dribble that ended with a powerful strike straight at Muslera before the Uruguayan goalkeeper produced a spectacular stop to deny an outside of the foot effort from Di Maria that appeared destined for the top corner of the net.
Without their top scorer in the competition due to suspension, Burak Yilmaz, Galatasaray were creating very little. From the opening period the hosts just had a comfortable save by Diego Lopez from Sneijder’s shot to show for their efforts.
The pattern continued after the break, with Madrid content to seemingly play out the remainder of the tie. When they briefly stepped on the gas they really should have doubled their lead on the night. Ronaldo will still be wondering how he failed to score when he poked a shot wide of the goal from just six yards out following Di Maria’s clever pass inside.
And Galatasaray quickly took advantage of that miss to at least restore parity on the night in the 57th minute.
A cross from the left by Sneijder ran all the way through to Eboue on the edge of the box and the former Arsenal man unleashed an unstoppable effort with the outside of his right foot into the top corner.
Fatih Terim’s side should have had another minutes later but Sneijder produced a miss every bit as bad as Ronaldo’s. Coentrao had inadvertently hit the ball across his own area and the former Champions League winner had a clear shot on goal but side-footed well wide with his left foot.
With 19 minutes remaining, the Dutchman took the chance to redeem himself against his former employers. Sneijder came up with a fine first touch through the legs of Varane on the edge of the box and then instantly side-footed the ball past Lopez. At that point it appeared little more than a restoration of pride, but that changed to something more just two minutes later.
Substitute Nordin Amrabat fired a low ball across the six-yard box and Drogba showed that he hasn’t lost the innate ability to know where the goal is as, marked tightly with his back to goal, he produced a brilliant flick to beat Lopez and give Galatasaray real hope of pulling off the miracle.
However, despite substitute Alvaro Arbeloa receiving a second yellow card in the 90th minute, that was as good as it got for Galatasaray and Ronaldo drove low inside the near post from Karim Benzema’s pull back to seal the win in injury time.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.