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Zinedine Zidane admits job is on line despite signing contract extension

Published in Spain Primera Division
Friday, 12 January 2018 10:56

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane has conceded he is under pressure following another unconvincing performance from his side in the Copa del Rey.

The Frenchman was slammed in the Spanish media following Wednesday's 2-2 draw with second-tier Numancia even if Real won the last-16 tie 5-2 on aggregate.

It came hot on the heels of a 3-0 loss at home to Barcelona and there was no let up in the criticism after Sunday's 2-2 draw with Celta Vigo in La Liga.

Real Madrid have slipped a remarkable 16 points behind Barcelona in La Liga and occupy the unfamiliar position of fourth in the standings, with their hopes of retaining the title long gone.
Zidane has signed a contract extension until 2020, but appears to be aware that will not save him if the poor run of form continues.

"I just go game to game, year to year," said Zidane.

"I cannot think two or three years down the line, as I know how it is here, even having a contract, which means nothing. "
"It is not easy for the players who play less. We played a good game. We maybe lacked a bit of gas at the end."

A place in next season's Champions League is also far from secure as sixth-placed Villarreal visit the capital on Saturday trailing the faltering Spanish and European champions by only four points.

Anything but three points against Villarreal, who secured a draw at the Bernabeu last season, would pile more pressure on Zidane despite his eight trophies in two years as Real coach.
The coach's declaration on Tuesday that he would not "throw anyone in the mud" has been taken as another sign that he is not strong enough to make the tough decisions his team need.

Zidane's unwillingness to shake things up can be traced to Real's limited activities in the last transfer window.

According to media reports, the club pulled out of a bid to sign French teenage sensation Kylian Mbappe to avoid upsetting Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale, who have only mustered up 10 league goals between them this term.
Mbappe joined Paris Saint-Germain instead and Real weakened their attacking options by relinquishing James Rodriguez and Alvaro Morata, who did not start most games last season but made invaluable contributions from the bench.

The only new arrivals were youngsters Theo Hernandez, Dani Ceballos and Diego Llorente, who have barely featured this season as Zidane's faith in the so-called 'B' team that did so well last season has faded.

So too has Real's form, and unless Zidane can whip his team into shape again, his time in charge could prove to be as short as it was successful.

ALEXIS SIGNING SHOWS MAN CITY HAVE JOINED BARCELONA & REAL MADRID AT THE TOP OF FOOTBALL'S FOOD CHAIN

Published in England Premier League
Thursday, 11 January 2018 13:28

The Arsenal ace's imminent arrival at the Etihad proves that Pep Guardiola's side have become an apex predator like the Liga duo

Gareth Bale scores as Real Madrid take commanding first leg lead

Published in Football
Friday, 05 January 2018 09:31

Copa del Rey quarter final first leg, Nuevo Estadio Los Parajitos - Numancia 0 Real Madrid 3 (Bale pen 36', Isco pen 89', Mayoral 90')

Gareth Bale found the net as Real Madrid took a commanding 3-0 lead in the first leg of their Copa del Rey quarter final against Numancia.

The Welsh winger opened the scoring from the penalty spot, with Isco also finding the back of the net from the 12-yard mark. There was also a goal for Borja Mayoral, who is the top scorer in this season’s Copa del Rey so far.

Numancia put up a fight until they were reduced to 10 men when Pape Diamanka was shown a second yellow card for a late challenge in the second half. From that point on, Zinedine Zidane’s side took a firm grip of the contest.

Real Madrid will now take a commanding lead into next week’s second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu, all but ensuring that they will take their place in the semi finals of the competition.

TALKING POINT
Is Gareth Bale finally fully fit? This wasn’t a vintage performance from Bale, dipping in and out of the contest, but there were signs that the Welshman, having missed much of the season through injury, is finally nearing full fitness. He was also taken off by Zidane at the hour mark, suggesting that he will start against Celta Vigo on Sunday evening.

MAN OF THE MATCH -
Lucas Vazquez (Real Madrid). He might have made the most of the contact from the defender to win the second penalty, but Vazquez was the best Real Madrid player on the pitch. The winger comes in for frequent criticism, even from his own fans, but he gave the Spanish and European champions a different dimension against a Numancia side who needed to be drawn out to get in behind. That’s what Vazquez did.

PLAYER RATINGS
Numancia - Munir 6, Medina 6, Ripa 5, Gutierrez 4, Calvo 5, Diamanka 4, Milla 5, Grego 6, Nieto 6, Larrea 5, Higinio 6.

Real Madrid - Casillas 5, Carvajal 5, Vallejo 6, Nacho 5, Theo 6, Vazquez 8, Llorente 5, Ceballos 6, Asensio 6, Bale 7, Mayoral 6. Subs - Isco 6, Achraf 5, Kovacic 5.

KEY MOMENTS
15’ GOOD CHANCE FOR BALE! That was a decent opportunity for the Welsh winger. He attempted a flick at the near post, but it didn't quite come off. Nice idea from Bale, it must be said.

27’ SHOULD HAVE SCORED! Mayoral should have found the net from there. He lost his marker and got on the end of a cross to the back post, but he stuck his shot wide of the target.

33’ PENALTY KICK TO REAL MADRID! Vazquez is brought down inside the area and Real will have the chance from the spot.

34’ GOAL! Numancia 0-1 Real Madrid: There's the opener and it has been scored for Real Madrid by Bale! He waited for the Numancia goalkeeper to choose a direction and rolled it the other way.

56’ SENT OFF! Diamanka is shown a second yellow card for a late challenge and he is sent off!

75’ OFF THE CROSSBAR! Wow! That was almost one of the goals of the season. Perez lobbed Casilla from the centre circle, but it coms back off the woodwork. What an effort that was!

84’ PENALTY KICK TO REAL MADRID! It's another spot kick to the away side, with Vazquez brought down again.

87’ GOAL! Numancia 0-2 Real Madrid: He's not been on the pitch for that long, brought on as a second half sub, but Isco steps up to the 12-yard mark and fires a shot high into the roof of the net. Good strike from the playmaker.

89’ GOAL! Numancia 0-3 Real Madrid: And that will be that for this tie. Mayoral managed to lose his marker from a cross into the box and directed a header into the ground and past the opposition goalkeeper, who didn't stand a chance.

KEY STATS
Lucas Vazquez has won more penalties than any other Real Madrid player under Zinédine Zidane in all competitions (five).

Gareth Bale has been directly involved in seven goals in his last nine games for Real Madrid in all competitions (four goals and three assists).

Barcelona put three past Real Madrid to pile pressure on Zinedine Zidane

Published in Spain Primera Division
Monday, 25 December 2017 11:45

La Liga, Bernabeu - Real Madrid 0 Barcelona 3 (Suarez 54', Messi 64' pen., Vidal 90+3')

Lionel Messi inspired Barcelona to a comprehensive 3-0 win over 10-man Real Madrid, giving the Catalans an astonishing 14-point lead ahead of their rivals at the top of La Liga.
Zinedine Zidane’s side needed a win if they were to keep alive their chances of retaining their championship crown, but they were served a humiliating defeat on their own patch, withy Barca scoring three times in the second half.

Real Madrid had the better of the play in the opening 45 minutes, but failed to take their chances. They were made to rue that when Luis Suarez opened the scoring in the second half, sweeping home a finish following a rapid counter attacking move through Ivan Rakitic and Sergi Roberto.
Dani Carvajal was sent off for making a save with his hands on the goalline, with Messi converting from the penalty spot to establish a 2-0 advantage. And substitute Aleix Vidal scored a third in stoppage time to put the finishing touches on a significant victory for the visiting Catalans.

TALKING POINT
The 2017/18 La Liga title race is over before Christmas

We’ve not even had our turkey and all the trimmings yet, but the 2017/18 La lira title race is over. With victory at the Santiago Bernabeu, Barcelona now hold an astonishing 14-point lead over Real Madrid at the top of the table, and a nine-point lead over Atletico Madrid in second place. What’s more, there was no suggestion in their performance that they could let that lead slip. If anything, Real will only slip further behind.
MAN OF THE MATCH - Paulinho (Barcelona)
Messi’s picture will adorn the back pages of the Spanish sports dailies tomorrow, but Paulinho was the standout performer on the pitch for Barcelona. The Brazilian has proved his doubters wrong since joining in the summer and this was an illustration of his importance to Barca. He gave them something different, providing a threat in the first half when the Catalans found the going tough. Against the odds, Paulinho has become a crucial part of Valverde’s team this season.

PLAYER RATINGS
Real Madrid - Navas 4, Carvajal 4, Ramos 5, Varane 5, Marcelo 6, Kroos 6, Modric 6, Casemiro 4, Kovacic 5, Ronaldo 6, Benzema 5. Subs - Bale 6, Asensio 5, Nacho 5.

Barcelona - Ter Stegen 7, Roberto 7, Pique 7, Vermaelen 7, Alba 6, Rakitic 8, Busquets 7, Paulinho 8, Iniesta 7, Messi 8, Suarez 7. Subs - Gomes 5, Semedo 5, Vidal 6.
KEY MOMENTS
3’ RONALDO GOAL CHALKED OFF! The Real Madrid number seven has the ball in the net within the opening few minutes, but he was offside when he headed home off the underside of the bar.

28’ WHAT A SAVE! Paulinho comes close to opening the scoring for Barcelona, sending a volley towards goal on the stretch. But Navas was equal to the effort, tipping it over the bar.

30’ RONALDO COMES CLOSE! This game is opening up now, with Ronaldo taking on Roberto before shooting from a tight angle. But Ter Stegen makes a save to divert it wide.

42’ OFF THE POST! That was inches away from being an opener for Real Madrid. Benzema gets to the near post to get on the end of a cross, but his header hits the outside of the post.

54’ GOAL! Real Madrid 0-1 Barcelona: What a blow that could be! Rakitic bursts through the Real Madrid midfield, passes out to Roberto who squares it across the box to Suarez. He finishes with aplomb.

64’ WHAT A CHANCE! That could have finished the game as a contest. Suarez had the opportunity to score from eight yards out, but Navas makes the save to deny the Barca striker.

65’ OFF THE POST! Now Suarez hits the woodwork with a shot. Mayhem ensues in the Real Madrid penalty area, but for the moment they somehow manage to scramble it clear.

66’ PENALTY KICK TO BARCELONA! Carvajal makes a save with his hand to prevent Barca from finding the net. Easy decision for the referee.

66’ SENT OFF! Carvajal is shown a straight red card for using his hands to make a save on the line. Barcelona now have a man-advantage and they have a chance from the spot.

67’ GOAL! Real Madrid 0-2 Barcelona: Messi makes no mistake from the penalty spot, striking high into the Real Madrid net. Barcelona now have a 2-0 lead and a man advantage. Is there any way back for the hosts from this? Up against it.

78’ WHAT A CHANCE FOR BALE! That would have been some introduction. The pass was cut back to Bale, who was free six yards out, but Ter Stegen made a reflex save to deny him.

93’ GOAL! Real Madrid 0-3 Barcelona: Barcelona are humiliating Real Madrid on their own patch! Great play from Messi sets up Vidal just inside the box and the former Sevilla man squeezes a finish underneath Navas. What a result.
KEY STATS
Lionel Messi is the only player to score 15 or more goals in 10 consecutive La Liga seasons.

Messi has scored more goals against Real Madrid than any other player in La Liga history (17).

Karim Benzema has hit the woodwork more than times (six) than he has scored (five) in all competitions this season.

ZZ no longer top: Why Clasico defeat could be beginning of end for Zinedine Zidane

Published in Spain Primera Division
Saturday, 23 December 2017 10:18

ZidaneZinedine Zidane faces his biggest task as a coach to restore Real Madrid's fading form before Barcelona visit the Bernabeu, writes Desmond Kane.

Every so often, reality and an ill wind bites ferociously at Real Madrid, prompted largely by largesse and their own sense of pride. No coach or team in professional sport can go on winning mercilessly and majestically without giving due consideration to the wider world. Even when you are the world game's Galacticos.
Even if at times it feels like Zinedine Zidane and Real Madrid’s European champions have been shrouded by some sort of mystical emollient that makes the sensation of failure feel as far from the Spanish capital as Rafael Benitez in Geordieland.
Zidane will mark two years in the Madrid job on January 4 since succeeding Benitez, a quite astonishing 24 months that has seen him become the first man to win the FIFA and Ballon d'Or awards as the world’s greatest coach and player.

Zidane has celebrated two Champions Leagues, two Club World Cups, two European Super Cups, La Liga and the Spanish Super Cup. This startling spell has even superseded his five years as a player at a club where he won the Champions League, Liga, European Super Cup and the old Intercontinental Cup in the early noughties.

But the management game in Madrid is as precarious as donning a Catalan flag in the Spanish capital: you are inviting trouble if you aren’t pleasing the locals. And how those locals need to have their senses soothed at the Bernabeu this Yuletide. An enduring summer of love has been followed by the onset of this harsh winter of discontent.

Zidane finds himself in a right old pickle before unbeaten league leaders Barcelona, who were filleted 5-1 over two legs of the Spanish Super Cup in August, arrive for their high noon meeting with Los Blancos on Saturday lunchtime. Played against the backdrop of Catalan local elections and the ongoing independence crisis enveloping Spain's politics, it is hardly a fixture that needs added trauma.
But there is an anxiety seeping out of Madrid, a team who have lost form more alarmingly than Devon Loch. Zidane confronts this business overseeing Madrid's worst run in the Spanish league in nine seasons. Who says managing excellence and egos was easy?

A win for the visitors would be akin to the moment Clint Eastwood's William Munny takes out Gene Hackman's Little Bill in the Unforgiven. In Liga, Real Madrid would be 14 points behind and dead men walking. To many Madridistas, it would be unforgivable.

Madrid are 11 points behind their bitter foes, and occupy an unthinkable fourth place in La Liga, five points behind Atletico Madrid and three adrift of Valencia.
If second is nowhere at Real Madrid, what does the sunken emblem of fourth place represent to such a starry club? Zidane knows the answer to this question as he was part of the last Real Madrid lot to limp home in fourth back in 2004.

Back then, Madrid enjoyed a cast of millions including David Beckham, Luis Figo, Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos, but were spectacular loss leaders.

They were throttled in their last five Liga matches to end the season behind Valencia, Barcelona and Deportivo La Coruna. It represented a historic, humiliating and costly failure. And saw coach Carlos Queiroz dismissed after only 10 months in the job.

Above and beyond the immediacy of Barca, comes Paris Saint-Germain, the world’s heaviest-spending club, in the Champions League last 16 on February 14, two legs laden with a heavy sense of foreboding about just where money can get you these days against the club who built their stock on purchasing it.
Past glory means little under Madrid president Florentino Perez, a man with a penchant for culling coaches as quickly as he gives votes of confidence. Zidane is the 11th coach in only 13 years. The French World Cup winner works for a bloke who sees himself as pivotal to the Madrid project as the players.

A manager who could no wrong suddenly looks like the novice he was when he was handed the Madrid job two years ago as a figure of risk and inexperience.

His task has hardly been helped by Cristiano Ronaldo, the five-times world player of the year, having his worst domestic campaign in nine seasons scoring only four league goals so far.
Zidane has learned on the job becoming a marvellous upholsterer as much as a coach. He has not tinkered too much, staying true to the counter-attacking instincts of Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti in the role, but injuries and suspensions to Dani Carvajal and Marcelo have nullified the threat from wide areas.

 Already there are murmurings that he should dispense with Isco for this match because he slows down Madrid in possession. And there is Zidane's major problem. Perez thinks he knows best because he runs the wider business.

"He’s a fantastic person but when he gets to thinking he knows everything about football he makes mistakes," said Queiroz. "The president didn’t want to understand how things worked and in the end it was me who was made to pay.”

This may not be the beginning of the end, but well may be the start of a more telling period. Pride comes before a fall. Finding a fresh formula is more difficult than sticking with an old one.

Is Zidane entitled to a season of spectacular failure for what he has done in two years of brilliance? History suggests you don’t want to put Perez on the spot.

Barcelona bid to extend lead over Real Madrid to 14 points

Friday, 22 December 2017 11:15

Real Madrid looked poised to sweep Barcelona away in La Liga after beating them so comprehensively in the Spanish Super Cup in August yet by the end of Saturday's 'Clasico' they could be a remarkable 14 points behind their bitter rivals.

Coach Zinedine Zidane has overseen Real's worst run of results in the league in nine seasons and his side go into Saturday's encounter at the Santiago Bernabeu sitting fourth in the standings, 11 points adrift of Barca albeit having played one game fewer.
It is a scenario few could have foreseen after Real won a Liga and Champions League double last term and began this season so convincingly.
Seemingly the only positive Real will take onto the pitch on Saturday is that they are still world champions after retaining the Club World Cup last weekend with victory against Gremio in the final.

Barca coach Ernesto Valverde looked in a vulnerable position in August after the resounding 5-1 aggregate defeat to Real so soon after succeeding Luis Enrique, especially with Brazil forward Neymar having left for Paris St Germain.
Yet the Spaniard has moulded the team into a highly resilient outfit who are unbeaten in their last 24 games in all competitions.

The Catalans are six points clear of nearest challengers Atletico Madrid, who visit Espanyol on Friday.

Barca may not have the same creative spark as in recent seasons and have on occasion been accused of being boring, but they have developed a tougher edge under former Athletic Bilbao coach Valverde, conceding only seven goals in 16 games.
"After losing the Super Cup we knew that we had to work as hard as ever and all follow Valverde, who I think has started to leave his stamp on the team," Barca goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen told Spanish newspaper El Pais.

"He has been watching us for a long time and he knew what he needed to do to improve us. That vision has served us well, we are very good defensively and we need to keep that up, or improve it, for the rest of the season so we can stay up there."

Barca captain Andres Iniesta said his side had erased the humbling 3-1 and 2-0 defeats to Real in the Super Cup from their memories but he does not think his side's big lead in the standings will have much bearing on the pitch on Saturday.

"That is in the past, we're in another competition and in a different moment. It's a completely different game and nothing to do with how we were back then," Iniesta told Marca.

"I don't look at the league table before a 'Clasico'. They are unique games and form has no impact. We know what's at stake and we'll try to take an important step towards winning the league."

Cristiano Ronaldo hits double as Real Madrid destroy Sevilla at the Bernabeu

Published in Spain Primera Division
Sunday, 10 December 2017 08:51

Santiago Bernabeu, La Liga - Real Madrid 5 (Nacho 3', Ronaldo 23', 31', Kroos 38', Achraf 42') Sevilla 0

Cristiano Ronaldo celebrated his fifth Ballon d'Or award in style by scoring twice as Real Madrid thumped Sevilla 5-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu.
The European champions scored all five goals in the first half with Nacho getting the ball rolling after only two minutes. From then on, Zinedine Zidane’s side showed their strength, catching Sevilla out time and time again with fast and furious counter attacking play in the final third.

Officially the world's greatest player with his haul of five paraded before the match, Ronaldo beat the offside trap to score his first of the afternoon on 23 minutes before converting a penalty on 31 minutes. Toni Kroos made it four on 38 minutes with young Moroccan full back Achraf Hakimi netting a fifth three minutes before half-time.
Sevilla will be relieved to get out of the Spanish capital having lost only five. Madrid move a point above Atletico into third place alongside Valencia, but remain five behind Barcelona, who have played one game less before they visit Villarreal on Sunday.

TALKING POINT - Was this the moment Real Madrid’s season turned?
The 2017/18 season has been difficult for Real Madrid, at least domestically. A defeat to Sevilla could have left them trailing Barcelona by a staggering 14 points by the time of the Clasico on December 23. Instead, they put down a marker, with Zidane opting for more of a counter-attacking style. That’s what his team does best, so will this prove to be a turning point in their season?
MAN OF THE MATCH - Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)
Despite winning a fifth Ballon d’Or during the week, finishing off a Champions League group stage campaign that saw him score nine times in six games, Ronaldo has struggled for goals in La Liga so far this season. But this was the Portuguese forward back to his best. He bagged a brace, but was also key to the fast and furious nature of Real Madrid’s performance, even tracking back to help out defensively.

PLAYER RATINGS
Real Madrid: Navas 5, Nacho 7, Marcelo 7, Vallejo 5, Achraf 8, Modric 7, Asensio 8, Kroos 7, Lucas 7, Ronaldo 9, Benzema 6. Subs: Llorente 5, Isco 6, Ceballos 5.

Sevilla: Rico 5, Mercado 5, Carole 4, Kjaer 4, Lenglet 5, Pizarro 5, Banega 5, Vazquez 6, Navas 5, Muriel 6, Nolito 4. Subs: Geis 5, Sarabia 5, Krohn-Dehli 5.

KEY MOMENTS
3’ GOAL! Real Madrid 1-0 Sevilla: What a defensive mix up from Sevilla! Kjaer managed to head the corner kick back into the danger area and Nacho was on hand to stab home the finish high into the roof of the net.

23’ GOAL! Real Madrid 2-0 Sevilla: Ronaldo gets his goal! Asensio plays the ball through to the Portuguese forward, who gets it under control with the perfect touch and finishes low past Rico. Great finish! Great goal!

30’ PENALTY KICK TO REAL MADRID! Navas is penalised for a handball against Marcelo and the hosts will have the chance to score a third from the spot.
31’ GOAL! Real Madrid 3-0 Sevilla: And there's the third goal for Real Madrid! It wasn't the best penalty kick from Ronaldo, but the ball squeezes underneath Rico and he has his second of the game.

38’ GOAL! Real Madrid 4-0 Sevilla: They have a FOURTH! Ronaldo started the move by winning the ball in midfield, with Vazquez playing a low cross for Kroos to finish from close range. This game is finished. Just call it full time now.

42’ GOAL! Real Madrid 5-0 Sevilla: This is INCREDIBLE! Real Madrid are 5-0 up before half time! Benzema and Ronaldo linked up to release Achraf down the right side and he sends a finish into the far corner of the net.

KEY STATS
Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema have hit the woodwork more times (eight between them) than goals they have scored in La Liga so far this season.

Ronaldo has scored 24 goals in 15 games against Sevilla in La Liga, more than against any other team.

Real President: Neymar could win Ballon d'Or at Madrid

Published in France Ligue 1
Saturday, 09 December 2017 10:39

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has opened the door for Neymar to join the European champions by declaring it would help further the forward's individual ambitions.

Neymar finished third behind Lionel Messi and winner Cristiano Ronaldo in the Ballon d'Or on Thursday and Perez suggested the only way for the Brazilian to break the duo's stranglehold on the prize - which has extended to a decade - would be to join Real.
"Being in Madrid would make it easier to win the Ballon d'Or," Perez told Spanish radio. "Madrid is a club that gives a big player everything they need to do so. Everyone knows I wanted to sign him."
Perez attempted to bring Neymar to Real from Santos on several occasions before he plumped for arch-rivals Barcelona in 2013.

He enjoyed success in Catalonia, helping Barcalona win the treble in 2015 before leaving for Paris St Germain in a world- record 222 million euro deal this year.

In September Neymar, 25, was involved in an on-field spat with team mate Edinson Cavani over who was going to take a penalty and there has been growing media speculation that his stint in the French capital could be a brief one.

Cristiano Ronaldo: 'I'm the best player in history'

Published in Spain Primera Division
Friday, 08 December 2017 13:05

Cristiano Ronaldo has hailed himself as "the best player in history" following his historic fifth Ballon d'Or win on Thursday.

Speaking to France Football after his win, the Real Madrid striker reflected on his momentous victory.
The four-time Champions League-winner was emphatic in declaring himself the greatest player in history.

"I don't see anyone better than me," he said. "No player does things I cannot do myself but I see things others can't do.

" There's no more complete player than me."
"I’m the best player in history — in the good and the bad moments."
The 32-year-old has now won the much-coveted award five times - the same number as arch-rival, Barcelona forward Lionel Messi, to see the pair dominate the last decade of the competition.
Clearly bolstered by his win, Ronaldo, who was congratulated on his win by the likes of Brazil great Pele, was clearly in no doubt himself over his own brilliance.
With Ronaldo having drawn level on five Ballons d'Or with Messi, he has clearly felt emboldened to talk openly about his own greatness.

However, Messi may well have something to say about the conclusions his rival has now reached...

Cristiano Ronaldo sets another record as Real Madrid win thriller

Published in Spain Primera Division
Friday, 08 December 2017 12:59

Champions League Group H, Santiago Bernabeu Stadium - Real Madrid 3 ( Mayoral 8', Ronaldo 12', Vasquez 81') Borussia Dortmund 2 (Aubameyang 43', 48')

Cristiano Ronaldo became the first man ever to score in every Champions League group game - he managed nine in total - as Madrid edged Dortmund, who qualified for the Europa League nonetheless thanks to Apoel's defeat against Spurs.
Madrid started really well against a Dortmund side struggling for form and configured in a now-unfamiliar 4-3-3 system. After eight minutes, Ronaldo and Isco combined, allowing Borja Mayoral to score his first Champions League goal, and shortly afterwards, Ronaldo set his new standard in suitable style, ripping home a curler into the far top corner.
But bit by bit, Dortmund eased their way into the game, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's reply was not a surprise, coming, as it did, after several warnings. That was just before half-time; just after half-time, he scored again, a delicious chip punishing Keylor Navas for saving his first effort.

To their credit, Madrid did not sulk, but gradually turned up the pressure - thanks in part to some attacking substitutions - until Dortmund were pinned inside their own half, and eventually, on 80 minutes, Lucas Vasquez forced home the winner. Madrid, though, have work to do if they are to defend their title a second time, while Dortmund suggested they might just be trying to find themselves; if they play in the Europa League the way they played tonight, they have a good chance of winning it.

TALKING POINT

How does Zinedine Zidane find his best team? Marco Asensio made a huge difference when he came on; Gareth Bale is still excellent; Dani Ceballos is hugely promising; Isco is now one of the best players in Europe and yet there is only room for one of them in the team .. unless Zinedine Zidane leaves out Toni Kroos or Luka Modric.
PLAYER RATINGS

Real Madrid: Navas 6, Nacho 5, Ramos 5, Varane 6, Theo 6, Casemiro 6, Kovacic 6, Isco 8, Lucas Vasquez 7, Mayoral 7, Ronaldo 7. Subs: Asensio 7, Ceballos 6, Llorente 6.

Borussia Dortmund: Burki 6, Sokratis 6, Subotic 6, Schmelzer 7, Bartra 5, Sahin 6, Dahoud 6, Guerreiro 5, Pulisic 6, Aubameyang 7, Kagawa 5. Subs: Weigl 6, Toprak 6, Yarmolenko 6.

KEY MOMENTS

9’ - GOAL! Real Madrid 1-0 Borussia Dortmund (Mayoral) Dortmund lose possession and immediately Madrid find Ronaldo on the left touchline. He skips across Barta and with no shot on, clips a clever pass into the box for Isco, who pirouettes looking to bring the ball with him into his stride. It doesn't work out, but does find Mayroal's instead, and he clips a deft finish over the diving Burki for his first Champions League goal. And a well-taken one it is too.

13’ - GOAL! Real Madrid 2-0 Borussia Dortmund (Ronaldo) HISTORY! THE FIRST MAN EVER TO SCORE IN ALL SIX CHAMPIONS LEAGUE GAMES! THAT'S NINE GOALS IN TOTAL, AND WHAT A BLINDER THIS IS! HE TAKES THE BALL ON THE CORNER OF THE BOX, SNEAKS A YARD OFF BARTRA, AND CURLS A BEAUTY INTO THE TOP FAR-LEFT CORNER! HE JOINS LIONEL MESSI ON 60 CHAMPIONS LEAGUE GOALS TOTAL! WHAT A RIDICULOUS HOMO SAPIENS!
43’ - GOAL! Real Madrid 2-1 Borussia Dortmund 1 (Aubameyang) Nacho plays a poor pass which Schmelzer intercepts, before slinging over a cross for Aubameyang; he dives to punch a glancing header into the far corner, a very nicely taken effort.

48’ - GOAL! Real Madrid 2-2 Borussia Dortmund (Aubameyang) This is strange and beautiful. Sahin darts a ball into the box and Kagawa backflicks to find Aubameyang in the box and he looks offside - he is offside, so everyone stops - but the flag stays down. So he ducks inside Ramos and shoots low, Navas saving with a sweeping leg only to return the ball to Aubameyang, who stubs a chip over him and in. That's beautifully done, and Madrid are suddenly struggling.

80’ - GOAL! Real Madrid 3-2 Borussia Dortmund (Lucas Vasquez) Madrid pump another ball into the box and Mayoral challenges Bartra, who can't clear effectively. The ball drops to Theo, who sets for Vasquez - outside the box, left of centre - and he contorts his body to use the outside of his right foot, forcing the ball across Burki and in.

KEY STATS

Cristiano Ronaldo has taken 21 shots in both the league and Champions League; he has two goals in the first and nine in the second.

Isco is the only Real Madrid player to have made five assists in each of the last five seasons in all competitions; he has 44 in total.

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Football

African Football

Football Transfers

Djilibodji is loaned to Dijon

Djilibodji is loaned to Dijon

French side Dijon have completed the signing of defender Papy Djilibodji on loan from Sunderland. T...

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