Gareth Bale had multiple chances to give Real Madrid a 2-1 win in the second leg of its UEFA Champions League semifinal. Iker Casillas should have had stronger hands on Juventus’s goal, which wouldn’t have mattered if Real Madrid spent its money on a real midfield. And now, because the defending European champions have bowed out, Carlo Ancelotti might be fired.
There are a lot of things to talk about with Real Madrid, but there is one other reason the Merengues aren’t going to the final — Cristiano Ronaldo was bad.
There is no way around it. Ronaldo struggled. He didn’t get free as often as he usually does, often finding himself marked by several defenders and short on space. That doesn’t normally stop him, but on this night it did. He couldn’t break through, either with his runs or on the dribble. He couldn’t hit the great pass to make Juventus pay for committing so many men to him, and he couldn’t get into the box to attack crosses with his incredible athleticism.
Only twice did Ronaldo make a huge impact on the match. One was when he did actually find a bit of room and hit a good cross to the back post for Bale, who put it over the bar. It was the best play Ronaldo made all match.
But the other time, he wasted arguably Real Madrid’s best opportunity. He was played in on the left on a picture-perfect counterattack. He was one-on-one with a defender inside the box and had a step, making it a brilliant chance. When Ronaldo cut back, the defender went flying by, and it was just Ronaldo versus the goalkeeper… but he passed the ball. A floated cross to the back post was cleared away — a predictable outcome for a speculative pass — leaving Ronaldo to wonder what he was doing. He was just a few yards from the goal with just the keeper to beat, it was the best chance of the match, and Ronaldo didn’t shoot.
Now the definition of the word “bad” is obviously relative. There are a lot of players who wish they were as “bad” as Ronaldo, but there’s no doubt that he was not his normal self. He was ordinary and even mistake-prone on plays an average player could make.
Ronaldo struggled and he struggled mightily. But luckily for him, Real Madrid have Bale. And the Ancelotti drama. And questions about Casillas. And heat on club president Florentino Pérez. So people aren’t going to talk about Ronaldo, but with the Merengues‘ Champions League hopes on the line, he laid an egg. He just as much to blame as anyone else.