Was Cristiano Ronaldo really sad, really unhappy, during these last couple of weeks? We’ll never know, but he certainly didn’t show it when he scored the winning goal for Real Madrid against Manchester City at the 90th minute, as all the problems his team were having since he opened his mouth magically vanished from existence.
A great match from Real Madrid? No, and not from Ronaldo as well. But Jose Mourinho was celebrating like this was something much bigger than a group stage for a reason, or maybe more than that. Slamming the players for their commitment and focus worked, although with a little bit of luck, that always helps in football. Real Madrid kept attacking all match long, with purpose and verve, although lacked a bit of accuracy most of the time.
They needed Marcelo’s shot with his right foot to bounce off Javi Garcia while Joe Hart was leaping in a different direction. They needed Vincent Kompany, one of the best central defenders in the world, doing a great job on Ronaldo for most of the 90 minutes, to make a dumb decision of lowering his head, only to fool Joe Hart as the English keeper, who was partially to blame in Karim Benzema’s second goal, mistime and see the ball too late on the third. Still, luck is part of this game.
Mourinho spoke later about a historic performance, one worthy of the Real Madrid history. But he was even happier speaking about how his players responded to him. No tactical adjustments won this match. Simply heart and belief, which were utterly lacking in the loss to Sevilla. It wasn’t putting Michael Essien in the lineup that made City mess up in the end, because the English team had the game by at the throat after 85 minutes.
The crisis? Was there really a crisis? It’s Real Madrid, so everything does get blown out of proportion, but the problem with this short Ronaldo saga was that there was only one match played between his deceleration of sadness after the win against Granada and the match against Manchester City. Just over two weeks, with one loss to Sevilla in between, which might have been exactly what Mourinho needed to kick-start his players into the right kind of attitude they need to somehow erase the 8 point deficit behind Barcelona.
All the calculations of how the group of Death will turn out once Real Madrid lose at home and Dortmund mess up against Ajax (which seemed to be the plot until very late in both matches) were scrapped. Real Madrid are the class of this group, especially when playing at home, but not by much. Still, it should be enough to make it through the group of death, especially with a win that brings back all the pieces together against for Mourinho and his team, at least for a little while.