Galatasaray 3 Real Madrid 2: Four lessons as Ronaldo shines in Istanbul
Galatasaray 3 Real Madrid 2: What did we learn as Jose Mourinho's men survive a late scare against the Turkish champions?
Ronaldo ends Galatasaray chances
Istanbul is synonymous with one of the greatest Champions League comebacks of all-time – Liverpool came from 3-0 down to win their fifth European crown in 2005. Galatasaray needed to score three to draw level on aggregate with Real Madrid in the last-eight second-leg tie but their hopes of emulating Rafael Benítez’s Reds side were seemingly extinguished in the eighth minute. Didier Drogba was dispossessed and Sami Khedira’s low cross found Cristiano Ronaldo, who tucked a finish past Galatasaray goalkeeper Fernando Muslera with trademark authority. It was the Portugal international’s fifth goal in five Champions League matches – and his 20th since the start of the 2011-12 campaign. In the second half, Ronaldo fluffed a chance to suppress rising Galatasaray confidence levels after Emmanuel Eboue’s strike, before the former Manchester United winger spared 10-man Madrid a nervy stoppage time with a clinical finish to secure a 5-3 aggregate win.
Eboue is Gala’s unlikely hero
With his Ivory Coast international team-mate Didier Drogba struggling to impose any sort of threat on Diego Lopez’s goal, Eboue finally ended Galatasaray’s duck in the quarter-final tie with a brilliant strike. The former Arsenal defender was heavily criticised for his performance in the Spanish capital but the 29-year-old rifled a ferocious effort past Lopez when a loose ball fell to the defender in the Madrid area. It brought Galatasary – and their supporters – back to life. With the stadium rocking, it was Eboue who exerted enough pressure on Coentrão to prompt the Madrid right-back to produce a bizarre clearance straight across the mouth of the goal to Wesley Sneijder, who with only the Madrid keeper to beat, thrashed an effort wide. Proving a menace down the home side’s right wing, Eboue continued to charge forward and send searching crosses into the area for Drogba. It was an inspired performance.
Drogba and Sneijder finally make quarter-final appearance
Wesley Sneijder had a point to prove after being substituted at half-time in the first leg at the Bernabeu. But the Netherlands international was largely anonymous in the opening period, aside from a weak shot which failed to test Lopez. The midfielder, who helped Inter Milan march to the Champions League trophy in 2010, appeared to have squandered his chance to seize the limelight when he dragged an effort wide with only the Madrid goalkeeper to beat. But the 28-year-old showed refreshing tenacity and was rewarded moments after his miss when he carved open the Madrid defence and tucked his finish past Lopez to put Galatasaray ahead on the night. Another big-name struggling was Drogba. For 72 minutes, the former Chelsea striker was poor, clearly lacking match sharpness. When the home side did manage to piece together a rare attack, Drogba proved a hindrance with a misplaced pass or a heavy touch. It was a sad reminder that the striker’s glory days are well and truly over, just 11 months after he fired Chelsea to their first-ever Champions League crown. But like Sneijder, Drogba’s moment came as he audaciously back-heeled a cross past Lopez to leave Gala on the brink of a sensational comeback.
Madrid favourites for the Champions League?
In truth, it’s difficult to assess Real Madrid’s chances of lifting a 10th European crown after a comfortable 4-1 aggregate victory over Galatasaray. Mourinho’s men deserve some credit for avoiding a potential banana skin against a side boasting some big-name European stars – albeit out-of-form or past their best – and a hostile Ataturk Stadium. While the Turkish champions did have the visitors rocking for an uncomfortable 20-minute spell, Madrid had too much quality, mainly in the shape of Ronaldo. How far can Mourinho’s men go? Well, Los Blancos appear to have finally banished Barcelona’s hold over them following their Copa del Rey semi-final win, including a 3-1 victory at Camp Nou. It’s whether Madrid can conquer Germany’s ever-popular Bundesliga pin-up boys Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. Jurgen Klopp’s men, who were unbeaten in the group stage against Madrid, booked their place in the last four courtesy of a late double, while Bayern knocked Mourinho’s side out of the competition last season. With Madrid on the brink of exit at Old Trafford but for a controversial red card, Mourinho’s men have yet to prove their title credentials with a blockbuster display in the knockout stage.